​Owner/Operator FAQ's about Pets and COVID-19

​​Owner/Operator FAQ's about Pets and COVID-19

​Last updated on April 1st, 2020

​​Much remains unknown when it comes to COVID-19, including the impact on pets living at apartment communities and their owners. According to the CDC, no evidence exists that pets can spread COVID-19. That doesn't mean pet-owning residents won't need additional support should they become ill.

Here are some frequently asked questions with answers covering what we know and where we’re continuing to seek answers regarding COVID-19 and pets at apartment communities.

​Much remains unknown when it comes to COVID-19, including the impact on pets living at apartment communities and their owners. According to the CDC, no evidence exists that pets can spread COVID-19. That doesn’t mean pet-owning residents won’t need additional support should they become ill.

Here are some frequently asked questions with answers covering what we know and where we’re continuing to seek answers regarding COVID-19 and pets at apartment communities.

Can pets get COVID-19?

This is a complicated topic that is still being investigated. According to ScienceNews, two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. These animals likely picked up the virus from their owners, all of whom had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

While the dogs showed no symptoms, the cat did show some signs of illness including respiratory issues, nausea and diarrhea. The cat recovered in nine days. Additionally, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo also recently tested positive, which is the first known animal case in the U.S. according to the CDC.

While these instances are extremely rare to this point, pet owners remain advised to use caution and practice their recommended hygiene guidelines when interacting with pets. Property managers should encourage residents to wipe pets’ paws after outside walks and give frequent baths.

Can residents get COVID-19 from their pets or someone else’s pet, if they are touched by someone with the disease?

Practicing social distancing with people and their pets is still the best line of defense in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, infectious disease experts, the American Veterinary Medical Association and multiple animal health organizations agree there is no evidence so far indicating that pets spread COVID-19 to people. 

“Dogs and cats may be what we call dead-end hosts,” said Jane Sykes, chief veterinary medical officer at the University of California, Davis. “They get infected with the virus. They shed it, but they’re unlikely to shed it enough to spread it to people.”

With that said, the recommendation is to be responsible and avoid petting other people’s pets for the time being.

Is it possible to get COVID-19 from cleaning a cat’s litter box?

The CDC has found that COVID-19 was detected in the feces of some infected human patients, but so far not in pets. Whether the virus in human stool is infectious remains unknown. The health authority has determined that, “The risk of spreading the virus from feces is expected to be low based on outbreaks of related coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS. To date, there are no known cases of fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19.”

Make certain to follow the litter-box cleaning recommendations of The Humane Society, including daily removal of cat waste and regular litter changes. Be especially vigilant on litter-box maintenance during the pandemic and make certain to wear disposable gloves on each clean.

If we are under a stay-at-home order, can residents still walk their pets?

​The short answer is yes. But it is important to check with your specific state and local guidelines. The VCA animal hospitals encourage walking pets during the pandemic as the exercise is good for both owners and their pets. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine echoes this and notes the importance of interacting with your pet like you normally would while still practicing social distancing. As always, residents should engage in good hygiene habits, wash their hands before and after going on walks and continue to practice social distancing while outside.

Can a resident give COVID-19 to a pet if they contract the virus? Do they have to isolate themselves from their pet?

At the moment, there are no known reports of pets becoming sick with the virus or passing the virus on to other people. However, the CDC recommends restricting contact with pets and other animals if you are infected with COVID-19. This recommendation is the result of not having enough data to determine the risk of transmission to or from pets. 

If possible, residents should have a trusted, healthy family member or friend care for their pet while they are sick. If that is not possible, the sick resident should wash their hands thoroughly before and after interaction with their pets and avoid petting, snuggling, licking and sharing food.

Will dog walkers be available to walk a resident’s pet if they're unable to do so?

This depends on your state or county’s specific stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are clear indications that veterinary services and pet supply stores are considered essential businesses. But it is unclear whether dog walking services are considered essential. 

If a resident is unable to walk their pet, the best solution is to find a friend, family member or neighbor who can assist temporarily. Following proper social distancing protocols are also important when finding temporary care for a pet.

What if a pet gets hurt or sick right now? Are veterinarians still open? What about emergency animal hospitals?

The AVMA has established that veterinarians are considered essential services and will remain open. Veterinary hospitals are asking pet owners to reschedule elective surgeries or nonessential appointments for their pets. They have also implemented guidelines for interacting with clients and caring for patients. The rules limit  the number of people allowed in a clinic and what is considered urgent care. Some veterinarians have opted to provide drop-off services only. If a pet gets sick, pet owners should call ahead to determine if they should bring them to the vet.

If a resident becomes ill or shows any symptoms of COVID-19 and their pet needs care from a veterinarian, they should have a trusted friend, family member or neighbor take the pet in for the visit. It is crucial to use extreme caution and sound judgement when determining if a visit to the veterinarian is necessary. Many offices are also offering no-touch vet visits, where technicians retrieve the pet from the client’s car, or providing telehealth appointments over a video call.

Are dog parks safe?

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends avoiding crowded dog parks for the time being. If an active dog craves some leash-free time to stretch its legs, pet owners should only go to the dog park during non-peak hours and avoid contact with others. In addition to the risk of being in close proximity to others, the surfaces at dog parks can be a breeding ground for germs. COVID-19 can survive on common surfaces for hours and maybe even days according to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine. That means wiping pets’ paws, giving them baths and refraining from smooches is wise if you decide to visit a dog park. 

If possible, it is recommended that residents refrain from frequenting dog parks until further notice from health officials. Apartment communities should consider closing their dogs parks as well, although they should make every effort to keep pet-waste bags stocked and accessible.

What can a resident do to make sure their pet is taken care of if they get sick with COVID-19?

​The best thing to do is to practice good hygiene habits and use precaution even if you’re not sick. That includes gathering a pet’s crate, food, vet records and contact information and instructions for current medications in the event someone else will have to provide temporary care. Much remains unknown about COVID-19 and its effects on pets. Residents should engage in the same standards and guidelines recommended by health officials as you would with people. Being proactive in preventing the spread of this virus is crucial to people and their pets.


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