Isolation can be tricky, but as a March 30th study published in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) points out, there are great benefits to having an animal at your side. 

However, before we dive into the science, let’s address one very important point:

There is no evidence that companion animals spread COVID-19

Experts believe that the ability for a pet to pass COVID-19 on to a human recipient is low-to-non-existent. 

  • While there are reports of two dogs in Hong Kong contracting the virus after close contact with their owners, the dogs never showed any symptoms, nor did they ever get ill. 
  • In short, their bodies quickly built up antibodies.

And while a test for COVID-19 in animals does currently exist (as of March 13), it’s not recommended we use it. Thousands of canines (and felines) were evaluated and, as the AVMA reports, “none had come up as being positive.”   

  • The upshot? COVID-19 is a person-to-person respiratory illness. Of course, to be on the safe side, we should take every care to keep our hands clean when touching and preparing food for our dogs. But then, we should be washing our hands more regularly anyway. 

In fact, companionship is important – and we shouldn’t separate pets from their owners

Where possible, you and your pet should remain together. If you suspect you’re sick, ask someone else in the household to walk the dog and prepare their food. Rest assured, the AVMA notes this is precautionary, as again, pets are highly unlikely to be affected, and there’s no evidence they can pass the virus to people.

So why are pets so vital during this stressful time?  

  1. We’re more likely to lie about the way we’re feeling if we think we’re going to be separated from our animal(s). Even an ill person will withhold information about their condition if they believe there’s a risk that separation will occur. Rest assured though, there are measures in place if you were to be sick, and needed help taking care of your dog. So keep your health the number one priority. 
  1. Life’s a lot more manageable when we’ve got a companion at our side. Loneliness has a massive impact on mental health and dogs are a proven antidote to isolation – what’s more, studies suggest they can alleviate anxiety and depression in their owners.

  2. Finally, there’s the logistical issue. Dog shelters would quickly become overwhelmed if dogs were separated from their owners.

What happens to my animal if I need urgent medical attention? 

The AVMA notes that “[a]nimal service agencies are working to support keeping companion animals in their homes or co-housing them in temporary emergency housing when people face challenges in providing care.”

In short, if you’re ill, tell a healthcare professional and let them know there’s an animal – or several – in your home. Measures are in place to make sure you’re taken care of, and that your animal is too. 

At all times, be honest about your symptoms and prioritize good hygiene, whether you’re dealing with people – or your dogs. 

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