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COVID-19

News >  Family

Stay calm, for pet’s sake: Keeping normal routines is pivotal for pet care needs in time of pandemic

UPDATED: Mon., March 30, 2020

Killian, Ainsley and Tara McCollum exercise their dogs, Bodie the German Shepherd, Buffy the Great Dane and Penny the Poodle, on Tuesday on Spokane’s South Hill. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Killian, Ainsley and Tara McCollum exercise their dogs, Bodie the German Shepherd, Buffy the Great Dane and Penny the Poodle, on Tuesday on Spokane’s South Hill. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Dogs can sense when we’re stressed and feel anxiety, said Dogology NW owner Mary Davies. Suddenly, there’s change, too, with families home all the time.

Amid the coronavirus and stay-home order, Davies urges people not forget pet care needs such as exercise – walking dogs daily or tossing them a ball. If they don’t expend physical energy, dogs are more prone to behavior issues, from barking to destroying items, Davies said.

While it’s a bonus for pets to get more family time, she said people shouldn’t bend rules for dog obedience as hours pass and adults and kids are home. Her Spokane Valley business trains service dogs and offers intervention services for canines with bad behaviors.

“Don’t allow jumping on the children, excessive jumping on furniture and letting dogs be rowdy in the house,” she said. “It can cause problems later on when the kids do have to go back to school.

“Keep up the normal commands you have for your dog. If the children need to be doing homework while Mom and Dad are doing their work at home, it’s OK for your dog to be laying on a bed or in a kennel as long as he’s exercised at some point.”

Don’t let your pooch eat off a plate or get temporary freedom to do other “no-no” behaviors. “We don’t want to create bad patterns that will have to be broken once we all return back to normal life and we’re not home all day with them.”

Also during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinarians along with state and federal groups are telling people they don’t need to fear spread of the virus from their dogs. If you’re not sick, then give them pats and attention – just wash your hands regularly as advised, the guidance says.

“At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.”

SouthCare Animal Medical Center in Spokane has received a few inquiries about a dog vaccine with a corona-sounding name, but it has nothing to do with the pandemic-related virus, said Dr. Suzanne Coulson, a veterinarian there.

“An issue we’re hearing about from some people is that they’re aware of a coronavirus vaccine for dogs, but it’s a completely different type of coronavirus.” Coulson said. “It’s for an intestinal virus, not respiratory, so it would have no benefit.”

Veterinary offices are essential under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order, she said, but Southside has scaled back visits during this time in part to conserve masks and medical protective gear.

“At this point, we have postponed our routine surgeries,” she said. “If there is an emergency surgery or a surgery that will really impact a pet’s quality of life, we do those.”

Other critical services are done curbside, she said, and the clinic is starting video chatting to answer questions about an animal’s symptoms. Euthanasia is still offered under social distancing requirements.

Coulson echoed that people generally shouldn’t be worried about coronavirus transfer to and from animals.

“The general thought is there is no indication we have any transmission between humans and dogs or cats,” she said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association advises that petting a dog’s fur is a low risk. Its chief veterinary officer says the group isn’t overly concerned about people contracting COVID-19 through contact with dogs and cats, and the virus survives best on smooth surfaces such as countertops and doorknobs.

Here are other tips amid the COVID-19 pandemic as pets and people spend more time together.

Keep a routine. This helps family members and pets stay on track for meals, exercise, rest and activity. If you normally walk your dog in the morning before work, keep that going.

Ensure adequate pet-care supply. People are thinking about the long-term care of pets, Coulson said. A Hill’s Science Diet distributor while at the clinic told her orders are much higher than normal because people are stocking up.

“The foods have a long shelf life,” she said. “There are a lot of online sources to buy food, too.”

Have a pet-care contingency plan. If you do get sick with COVID-19, isolate from all family members including pets. For some, that might mean seeking someone to care for the animal if possible, “Or if you can’t do that, be sure to use a mask, minimize contact and wash your hands,” Coulson said.

Find indoor games. Toss your cat or dog’s favorite toy and play games with them. This can provide exercise along with any outdoor activity to get pets moving around. The American Kennel Club under its COVID-19 resources has multiple ideas for indoor play, training ideas and fun-at-home activities for kids and dogs.

Walk regularly. That supports your and your pet’s health, with strolls done of course while maintaining social distance from other people.

Don’t overfeed pets. People might be tempted to give their pets extra at meals along with more treats during this unusual time. “There are different things occurring with people home,” Coulson said. “They may be feeding pets more, but it’s a good idea to keep them on the same routine.”

Check on pet medical services. See how your vet is handling emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is there a backup site if your pet needs medical care?

Stay calm and cuddle a bit. Pet cuddles are a good idea right now to help pet owners and the pet. “Yes, dogs react to stress,” Davies said. “It’s a good idea to cuddle with your dog in a calm fashion so they are comforted and they provide comfort to you.

“It’s very important to spend time with your dog. He knows something has changed, and he can also provide comfort to you as you feel stressed.”

Coulson also suggested people spend time with pets as they normally do and avoid feeling panicky about possible illness in dogs that aren’t proven. She recommended checking reliable sources such as the CDC, which is regularly updating, and the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association.

The AKC offers additional regular updates for pet owners regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. And to have fun while together in residences, the AKC created the #wooffromhome challenge on Instagram to feature canine best friends. Activities include DIY, tricks, health or bond/love.

This story has been updated to correct the name of the clinic where Dr. Suzanne Coulson works. She is a veterinarian at SouthCare Animal Medical Center.

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