Health

Leading Veterinarian Talks About Pets and COVID-19

As to whether a pet can transmit the coronavirus to a human and conversely emerges as an issue for scientists and medical professionals to explore, a well-known veterinarian, Dr. Devon Smith of Towson, Md., offers insight and tips for animal owners to deal with the pandemic.

A great deal of attention on animals and the coronavirus arose when a tiger at a Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for the virus in April. While public health officials later concluded that a zookeeper who had COVID-19 infected the animal, the issue has since been discussed in the public discourse.

Smith, who practices in the Baltimore area but has a national outreach, participated in an interview with KATU in Portland, Ore., on April 9 regarding whether pets can transfer COVID-19 to humans and inversely.

“Right now, there is no good evidence, if any, to suggest a cat, if he were to develop COVID-19, could then give it to me or someone else in my household,” Smith said. “If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you could pass particles of the virus onto your animal’s fur. Then, if that animal goes and plays with your wife, girlfriend, brother, sister, boyfriend or whatever, could the virus particles be transmitted to the person. That is a potential. So, my concern would be if you and the person are social distancing and the dogs are engaging, if that person potentially an asymptomatic carrier, could they pass it on to your dog and then could your dog bring it to your household? Yes. I should think so. But I think it is a pretty unlikely scenario.”

Smith owns and maintains the website For Pet’s Sake with Dr. Devon Smith, which talks about pets’ health concerns and site has connections to social media and a blog. On the matter of the coronavirus, she said a lot of information and guidance on animals has come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The CDC said while it doesn’t know the exact source of the coronavirus, research has shown that it came from an animal source. The CDC said no evidence exists suggesting animals play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus and based on limited information, the risk of spreading COVID-19 to people remains low.

However, while researchers are still learning about the virus, it appears that it can spread from people to animals, the CDC says.

Smith, in a May 15 post on “For Pet’s Sake,” offered advice on dealing with your pet during the pandemic.

“If you suspect your pet may be infected, you should call ahead to your vet to see if they are open and whether they adhere to social distancing requirements,” she said. “If your vet offers telemedicine, take advantage of that and that avoids face-to-face contact. If you become sick with COVID-19, ask a family member or friend to take care of your pet or to take it to the vet. As much as possible, separate yourself from your pet and that includes no petting, snuggling or sharing a bed with your pet if you, the owner, is infected.”

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