In light of recent reports that a dog in Hong Kong was found to have developed an immune response to the COVID-19 virus – antibodies were found in the blood – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) offers guidance and reassurance for pet owners and those in the animal care industry.
Despite this result, Hong Kong officials stressed that these cases of infection in dogs appear to be infrequent. As of March 25, 2020, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has conducted tests on 17 dogs and eight cats from households with confirmed COVID-19 cases or persons in close contact with confirmed patients, and only two dogs had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These findings indicate that dogs and cats are not infected easily with this virus, and there is no evidence that they play a role in the spread of the virus.
“It’s important to note that an infection, as was the case in these Hong Kong animals, does not mean the animal is infectious,” said Dr. Brittin Ross, DVM, spcaLA Veterinarian. “Best practices at this time are focused on hygiene and social distancing.”
spcaLA has been working around-the-clock with veterinary and public health officials nationwide to develop protocols to protect pets, animal care staff, and the public during this crisis.
“It’s my job to protect animals and that is what I intend to do,” said spcaLA President, Madeline Bernstein. “Right now, it’s important to keep a level head. Take care of your pets, and each other.”
Guidance for Pet Owners
Pets are members of the family, and just like human family members, spcaLA urges pet owners to protect pets. If dog parks are still open in your area, spcaLA urges pet parents to avoid them.
- Maintain good hygiene practices by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching pets, in keeping with CDC guidelines.
- Do not allow your dogs to play with other dogs or meet people during daily walks. Keep a six-foot distance between your dog and others, just as you would with other people.
- Curb your dog’s interest in sniffing excrement of other animals, or picking up refuse on the ground.
- Before you come inside from a walk, wipe your dog’s paws with a sudsy solution of pet shampoo and water. When finished, discard the wipe and thoroughly rinse your pet’s paws with water to remove soap residue. If you have them available, you may consider having your dog wear shoes, socks, or booties outdoors.
- Keep your cats and other pets safely indoors. If you are unable to confine your cat, follow the wipe down procedures indicated above.
- Do not use Lysol wipes, bleach, or other harsh chemicals on your pets. Ask your veterinarian for additional safe options to clean your pet’s paws.
Guidance for Animal Care Facilities
- Protect your staff and volunteers. Determine and implement your shelter’s intake procedures, which should apply to returning fosters and other clients, as well as stray and surrendered pets.
- Protect the community. Determine and implement your shelter’s procedures prior to placing animals in adoption, foster, or returning them to their owners.
- Pet boarding and daycare facilities, many of whom are open and caring for the pets of medical, grocery, sanitation, food delivery, and other essential workers, should take care to develop and implement intake and return procedures.
- Protocols for incoming and outgoing animals may include bathing (paying special attention to the areas most frequently petted by people), a period of isolation, and other actions. Further consideration should be made as to PPE for staff and procedures to accept or return animals to the public while maintaining safe social distance. Animal care facilities can email info@spcaLA.com to obtain a sample copy of spcaLA’s protocol.
spcaLA continues to monitor the situation, and will update protocols with any new information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Furthermore, the public is encouraged to stay informed by following these organizations’ websites: World Health Organization, American Veterinary Medical Association, and World Organization for Animal Health.