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What are the rules for pet care and COVID-19

Caring for your pet during the pandemic. Advice from Dr. Alex of Earth Angels.

dogs and cats during covid-19

As we battle these unusual pandemic times, we find ourselves spending more time at home. Many of us have taken the plunge and adopted a pet, joining the growing population of pet owners.

These crazy times are actually benefiting the human-animal bond, allowing pets and their human companions to take advantage of all the pet related activities that they we now have more time for. To their delight, dogs, cats and birds have us doting on them like never before. 

People ask about their pet care concerns. As a veterinarian, I get asked by clients as well as friends and neighbors about how to best take care of their new companions during these stressful times. Are they sensing our stress and worry? Should I worry about them getting COVID-19 viral infections? Should we see our veterinarian, or wait to update vaccines and prepare for the coming tick/flea/heartworm season? Is it safe to allow my children to pet dogs and cats?

These are all valid and important questions that need to be dealt with as a responsible pet owner. Pets can be a great source of stress relief, as well as a great source of stress. The best way to deal with all the challenges that our fur and feathered family members bring parallels one of the best ways we deal with our new way of life under this pandemic. 

Create a schedule and follow it. Keep in mind that we will return to normalcy at some point, and our pet companions will be left at home. There will be less time spent with them as family members return to more normal activity outside the home. In order to lessen the stress this change will cause on your pet's psyche, create a schedule for their walks, feedings and play times. These should be timed to mimic what you believe life will be like once you and your family members return to the workforce, school, etc.

Minimize separation anxiety. This is a real issue that many pets face when they feel they are left behind. The last thing you’ll want to deal with when starting a more rigorous schedule is having your beloved pet companion freak out and manifest destructive behaviors onto themselves and your home while you are gone. Separation anxiety is a real condition, and pets suffering from it may even end up requiring medication.

Schedule the basics. Following a schedule does not mean that you cannot add extra time shared with your pet during your stay at home. It means that the basics, like feeding time, walking time, and sleeping time, need to happen on a scheduled, daily basis so your pet can trust you being gone without feeling a threat to their basic needs. Discussing these and the many other issues that pet ownership brings should be done with your veterinarian. Finding and creating a good relationship with one is important. Find someone that goes beyond basic vaccine and medication care and able to answer behavior questions to your satisfaction. 

Consult your pet’s veterinarian. Creating a good relationship with a veterinarian is important as we face unprecedented times. The recommendation by the American Veterinary Medical Association at his time is to have your pet follow social distancing just like you are. Although having your pet wear a mask is not possible, keeping them 6 feet away from other people and pets is recommended.

Pets may carry the virus. Although pets do not succumb to the disease like people do, they may carry the virus in their nasal passages/throats which can go from one person to another. The length of time and amount the COVID-19 virus survives in them is not known yet. The incidence seems to be low, but not impossible. Until we know more, it is important to be cautious and keep pets away from people that may be infected. If the pet lives with an infected person, the pet should be tested by your Vet just like people are tested by their doctors to make sure they are safe to rejoin society. Therefore, avoid having you and your children pet and be licked by pets other than your own. If someone in your home is COVID-19-positive, quarantine restrictions should apply to your pet just like they apply to you. Stay away and get tested.

Consider curbside care. Veterinary hospitals are considered essential operations during this pandemic. Keeping up with vaccines, flea, tick and heart worm control, and getting immediate attention for a sick pet is recommended. Be prepared for curbside service, and to hand over your pet to a well-protected and qualified technician without going into the building yourself. Bring your cellphone and most importantly, let the medical professionals know if your pet was in contact with anyone had had the virus. Avoiding tick borne diseases, rabies, and flea infestations are part of the reasons why a visit to your veterinarian is important during these crazy times. 

Follow these simple directions and stay safe.

Dr. Alex, with her practice partner Robert Codacovi, own Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital, 44 Saint Nicholas Road, Wappingers Falls NY 12590 845/ 227-P-A-W-S (7297)

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