While it has been found that dogs can contract several strains of coronavirus, the jury is still out on whether or not pets can infect humans in the traditional sense. And research shows that the strain pets contract is different than that which humans do. So while you may not need to worry about your dog sneezing on you and making you sick, we have to remember that Coronavirus cells can live on surfaces—both soft and hard—for potentially hours or even days, and that could mean it’s living on Fido.
I know that I, as a pet owner, have had concerns about how living with and caring for an animal may affect my chances of getting the Coronavirus. While I’m over here wiping down grocery store carts and obsessively using hand sanitizer after pumping gas or putting my hand on an escalator rail, I am, at the same time, taking my dog to parks where she plays with other animals and humans. Then I’m cuddling and kissing my pet, who I bring straight from a very public place back into our private home.
There is something inherently social about having a pet. Pets need walks (one of the reasons they’re generally good for our health!) Pets need to go to the groomer and the vet and to play dates. It’s hard to be a recluse when you have a pet, but right now, during a pandemic, a recluse is exactly what many people want to be. I just can’t hole up in my home when I have a miniature poodle who requires three walks a day. And I can’t really keep my hands to myself (as health professionals are advising) when I have a pup who wants pets, and who I often need to carry in my arms. If you’re in the same boat I am, here are Coronavirus precautions for pet owners.
Keep antibacterial wipes at the door
Order antibacterial wipes to keep at your front door, and to use on your pet each time she comes in from an outing. If you are sensitive to fragrance or your pet has sensitive skin, there are many hypoallergenic ones available. Remember that your pet walks on the ground, where all sorts of bacteria may live. Then she walks around in your home—maybe on your bed and pillows—with those very paws. So wipe her down.
Wipe down pets after grooming
It’s also a good idea to wipe your pet down—head to toe—with antibacterial wipes when she returns from the groomer, vet, or any other place where multiple humans handle her. Remember that between the receptionist, shampoo person, and actual groomer, a lot of people may touch your pet while she’s at the salon. They’re also touching other dogs before moving onto yours.
Minimize pets from strangers
While it can feel a bit cold, you should ask strangers not to touch your pet right now. Naturally, if you have guests over, they will pet your dog. But if you’re just out and about with her, it’s a good idea to not let the many people who might ask to pet your cutie, pet her. That’s a lot of stranger’s germs on the animal you yourself then pet, and bring home.
Do not allow kisses with strangers
If your dog loves to give kisses to everyone she meets, you may need to deprive her of this joy for now. The mouth is precisely where Coronavirus bacteria can live in humans, so you don’t want strangers mouths interacting with your pet in any way. You should ask strangers not to kiss your pet—even on her body—for the time being.
Don’t kiss your dog (if possible)
This one can be hard. I know it because I’m really struggling with it with my dog. She loves to kiss me on the mouth. But, I don’t really know where her mouth has been, and what germs she may have picked up. She shares toys with other dogs at the park and licks the ground. So as much as it pains me, I have to pull back when she goes for a big, sloppy smooch.
Purchase non-perishable food in bulk
Though I don’t want to cause a panic, everyone else already seems to be panicking, which can affect the rest of us. Be sure to pick up a good amount of non-perishable food for your pup, just in case the country freaks out and everyone clears the shelves of pet food. If quarantine does occur, it’s best to leave your home as little as possible, so you won’t want to go to the pet supplies store at that time.
Put some clothes on Spot
Even if you aren’t typically the type of pet owner who likes to dress Cupcake up in sweaters, it’s not a bad idea to buy a few pieces of clothing for your animal right now. If you must take your pet to a public place, consider putting an item of clothing on her that provides a good deal of coverage. When you get home, immediately strip her of the item, and put it in the wash. This minimizes the germs that get directly on your pet’s body.
Clean your pet’s bowl regularly
Your pet’s bowl is a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s damp. If you feed your pet a raw diet, then you may have raw meat parts in that bowl. Again, you don’t quite know what your pet put her mouth on outside, and then she puts her mouth on that bowl. Consider running your pet’s water and food bowls through the dishwasher with your regular dishes. Make sure to put it on high heat to thoroughly disinfect everything.
Avoid off-leash play for now
This is another one that can be heartbreaking to enforce, but you may want to lay off the dog park visits right now. If your dog loves to say hi to other pets, you can walk her on leash in an area where she can do some light sniffing with other pets. But you don’t want her wrestling and tumbling around with dozens of off-leash pets, who may be carrying bacteria.
Watch the ground
Keep a close eye on the ground while walking. Pets pick up anything they can. And, unfortunately, humans often drop anything they can like food wrappers or plastic cups. You don’t want your pet to lick a food wrapper that another person’s mouth was on, and then licking your face later.
Don’t take Fido shopping
Even if your pup is quite social and loves to come along on errands, she may need to sit out this trip to the mall or this lunch with a friend. The fewer things (living or inanimate) that you can bring to your home that could be contaminated, the better. That means your pooch. And bringing her to crowded places can expose her to bacteria.
Bundle up for walks
While there are some obvious habits that lower immunity, there are some lesser-known behaviors that can interfere with your body’s ability to fight infection. When your body is too cold, it has to direct so much energy to keeping you warm that it can’t put in the work to fight viruses. So bundle up when you walk your pup.
Consider skipping doggy daycare
If you send your dog to daycare while you’re at work, you have to remember that there, she interacts with other dogs in close quarters and interacts with many humans. Between the employees of the daycare, and other pet owners who stop by and pet your pup, Fido touches a lot of humans. It could be best, for now, to go home on your lunch break to walk Fido yourself, or find a neighbor you trust to take your pup out.
If infected, wear a mask on walks
If you do become infected and must continue to walk your own pet, wear a mask when you go out. Do not pet dogs you encounter. Don’t let your dog interact with others, as she may be carrying your germs. Wear latex gloves to touch things like the front door to your building or the dumpster where you toss Spot’s poop.
Or separate yourself from your pet
If possible, separate yourself from your pet until you are better. You really shouldn’t be up, walking a dog several times a day when you’re sick. If you have a partner or roommate, quarantine yourself to one room, and have that other person handle pet care for now. Or you can hand your pet off to a healthy friend to care for her until you’ve recovered.