BOONE — Pet owners will usually do anything to keep their animals safe from harm, including illness and disease.
The good news, according to Dr. Cathy Kreis, a veterinarian at Appalachian New River Veterinary Hospital, is that pets are not believed to be vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.
The current strain of the coronavirus is one of many types, according to Kreis. The one that is affecting people is a newer strain that does not affect cats or dogs.
“There are many different types of coronavirus in that family of viruses,” Kreis said. “They are all a little bit different and many of them are very species specific. So, we have our own forms of coronavirus, cats have their own form of coronavirus and dogs do as well.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association has provided similar information.
“Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people,” the AVMA stated on its website.
However, the pets could spread the disease if an infected human sneezed on an animal and the disease strain stayed on the fur, Kreis said.
Kreis compared touching an animal’s fur that had been coughed on by somebody with the disease to touching a doorknob or a computer keyboard of a sick person.
“To the best of our ability to know, right at this moment, we are not seeing pets getting sick with this form of coronavirus,” Kreis said. “The concern is, though, is if a sick person is around the pets, if they sneeze or cough on their pets, their pet could carry the virus to another person.”
Kreis said for those who are sick with the virus should minimize their contact with their pets as they would with people, but not because they will make the pets sick.
“It’s just to make sure the pet can’t carry it to somebody else,” she said.
Often, people who have come down with the virus have had to be quarantined at a hospital or other facility. She recommended that people should leave pet’s caregivers extra pet supplies, such as food or litter, just in case the pet owner gets sick and has to leave home.
“We have to make sure that someone is looking after them because we are either too sick or we don’t want to expose them so they can share the virus,” she said. “They don’t get sick, but they could share it, which would be an easy thing to do.”
Kreis also said she has heard of veterinary offices staggering appointments for vets to see animals to provide some “social distance” between people bringing their pets to the vet.
Kreis said her office is trying to keep the reception area as clear as possible by having patients wait with their human friends in the examination rooms and then scrub down those rooms when the visit is over.
Kreis said some offices are only taking emergency appointments. Some are offering curbside service to keep their buildings clear of people and keep the risk of spreading the disease down.
“We’re asking folks to make sure to make phone calls to their veterinary offices in advance of their appointments instead of just walking in,” Kreis said. “That’s so we can make sure to get you on the schedule in a way that allows us to do some of the things we’re doing, so we don’t have clients coming into the reception area.”
Calling ahead to a vet’s office can also give potential clients up-to-date information or answers to any questions people might have.
“There is so much information out there that it’s hard to keep everything straight,” Kreis said. “It changes all the time too, so when you think you understand the scenario, it changes.”
Watauga Humane Society
The Watauga Humane Society will limit public access to the building beginning March 17, according to the organization’s Facebook page.
Currently, more than 150 animals are housed at the Watauga Humane Society. Access to the building will be limited to those who make an appointment.
Animals available for adoption or to be fostered may be viewed on the WHS website. Those who want to make an appointment to see an animal can call 828-264-7865.
If pets are lost, owners are encouraged to complete lost/found pet reports on the WHS website, so the pets can be listed on the website.
Animal Control officers will still be responding to emergency calls, but non-emergency calls will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The number is 828-262-1672.
Ashe County Humane Society
The Ashe County Humane Society confirms on its website that human beings can’t get the coronavirus from dogs or cats.
“Please do not take your pets to a shelter out of fear they will spread or transmit coronavirus,” the ACHS Facebook page said.
The page also recommended that people should wash their hands after handling or petting their animals.