07 Apr 2020

Pet keeping in times of the coronavirus: Ten questions - ten answers

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is keeping everyone worldwide on tenterhooks. Many pet owners are unsettled and wonder what the corona pandemic means for them and their pets. The Industrieverband Heimtierbedarf (IVH) e. V. in Germany has compiled the statements of leading experts and institutions on ten urgent questions. The good news: in principle, pet owners can continue to live normally with their pets and provide them with unlimited care.

The information collected corresponds to the state of information and knowledge as of 25.03.2020. Pet owners should regularly consult the sources indicated. These sources are updated continuously.

1. Can cats and dogs be infected with COVID-19 and transmit it to humans?

Currently there are no known cases of dogs or cats being affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, science assumes that dogs and cats cannot transmit the virus to humans. According to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI), the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, there is no evidence that dogs or cats bear a risk of transmission to humans. This assessment is shared by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO. This means that healthy pet owners can continue to play and cuddle with their pets. General rules of hygiene such as washing hands after each contact with pets should be followed.

The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut recommends pet owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 to avoid close contact with their pets for the time being. This includes, for example, the licking of the face by the pets.

Sources:
Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, https://www.openagrar.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/openagrar_derivate_00027905/FAQ-SARS-CoV-2_2020-03-18.pdf 
Europäisches Zentrum für die Prävention und die Kontrolle von Krankheiten, www.ecdc.europa.eu

Weltgesundheitsorganisation, www.who.int

 2. Are dogs and cats tested for the corona virus?

There are currently no known cases of dogs or cats suffering from COVID-19. However, according to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, if symptoms appear in pets, it may be advisable to test the pets to obtain further information on the transmission of the virus. In this case, the responsible health office should contact the veterinary office. Testing animals follows the same test procedure as for humans.

Sources:

Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, https://www.openagrar.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/openagrar_derivate_00027905/FAQ-SARS-CoV-2_2020-03-18.pdf

 3. What do you have to consider when dealing with rabbits, guinea pigs and co.

According to current knowledge, pets such as dwarf rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, canaries or budgies cannot contract COVID-19 and they cannot transmit the virus. The same applies to horses and animals in agriculture.

Sources:

Deutscher Tierschutzbund, https://www.tierheime-helfen.de/coronavirus-faqs

 4. Can I maintain my aquarium when I disinfect my hands regularly?

In general, pet owners can care for the animals in aquariums as usual. According to the Zentralverband Zoologischer Fachbetriebe Deutschlands e. V. (ZZF), however, caution is advised when you disinfect your hands: Before fish owners grab into the aquarium, their hands should be free of chemical residues. To avoid negative effects on water values, it is sufficient to clean hands and arms with clear, warm water in advance.

Sources:

Zentralverband Zoologischer Fachbetriebe Deutschlands e.V. (ZZF), https://www.zzf.de/presse/meldungen/meldungen/article/es-gibt-keinen-grund-heimtiere-aus-angst-auszusetzen.html

 5. Are protective measures for pets necessary?

According to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, there is no evidence that dogs or cats bear a risk of infection for humans, nor that pets can be infected by humans. The use of respiratory masks or disinfectants for pets is also not necessary. Quite the opposite: Such measures stress the animals enormously and can also damage their skins and mucous membranes.

6. May pet owners continue to walk their dog if there is a curfew?

Situation in Germany: At the moment there is a contact ban in Germany. A nationwide curfew has not yet been implemented. But even if it should come to that, the basic needs of the citizens and pets still have to be met. For pets, this includes for example both the basic supply of food and water as well as species-appropriate physical activity.

Sources:

Deutscher Tierschutzbund, https://www.tierheime-helfen.de/coronavirus-faqs

 7. I was tested positive for COVID-19 and am in domestic quarantine. How can I still provide sufficient care for my animal?

The Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute does not currently recommend any measures such as the separation of infected pet owners or even quarantine. Pet lovers can therefore generally care for their pets normally. This applies to dogs and cats as well as to other pets, such as dwarf rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, canaries or budgies. Cats that are used to being outdoors can still be let outside. However, people who have been found to be infected with COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their animal friends. This includes, for example, the licking of the face by the pet.

Dog owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 face the challenge of not being allowed to leave their homes. They should ask young, healthy relatives, friends or colleagues to take the dog for a walk.

The current rules of hygiene and conduct shall apply: 

-          Infected pet owners should wash their hands thoroughly before handing over the dog and avoid direct contact with the person collecting the animal.
-          Ideally, the person going out with the dog should not enter the house or apartment, but should take the animal in the entrance area. 
 -         If possible, the person walking the dog should bring and use his own leash and collar so that he does not touch the same objects as the infected person. If this is not possible, the leash can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Sources:

Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, https://www.openagrar.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/openagrar_derivate_00027905/FAQ-SARS-CoV-2_2020-03-18.pdf

Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, https://www.infektionsschutz.de/coronavirus/

 8. Can I continue to buy feed and supplies for animals?

Pet shops are open in most regions just like normal grocery stores. According to the Federal Ministry of Health in Germany (and also international authorities), " Retail trade for pet food" is one of the businesses for daily needs that remain open in principle. Nevertheless, the ministry points out that different regional regulations apply. Pet owners should therefore find out in advance which pet shop in their area is open.

The same rules of conduct apply when shopping in pet shops as when buying food. These include keeping a safe distance from other people and not paying with cash.

Sources:
Bundeministerium für Gesundheit, https://www.zusammengegencorona.de/informieren/zuhause-bleiben/

Zentralverband Zoologischer Fachbetriebe Deutschlands e.V. (ZZF), https://www.zzf.de/presse/meldungen/meldungen/article/-0ec0194fb2.html

 9. Can I take my pet to the vet?

The veterinarians and veterinary clinics are still open. However, the European Federation of Veterinarians (FVE) together with the umbrella organisation of small veterinary associations (FECAVA) has issued recommendations for the current crisis: Pet owners should only visit the vet in urgent cases and make an appointment in advance by phone or online. Only a healthy, adult person should take care of the animal and avoid contact with other people during the entire stay in the practice.

Sources:

10. Is it advisable to leave pets at the shelter as a precaution?

Pet owners should only leave their pets at the shelter if it is absolutely necessary. A change of location as well as the loss of a caregiver means stress for every animal. In addition, according to the German Animal Welfare Association, the animal shelters are currently in an exceptional situation, so that any animal disposal that is not absolutely necessary must be avoided. This also applies to a temporary release during a 14-day quarantine: Animal owners should only resort to this if it is really not possible to care for the animal in question at home, or if an infected person has to go to hospital.

Sources:

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