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Debunking misinformation, rumours and myths

As quickly as updates have been released and news reports have spread about coronavirus (COVID-19), so too has misinformation and rumours, particularly about pets. Some information has been spread with the best of intentions, and some with not so good intentions. You've most likely already seen a few social media or blog posts you're not sure whether to believe or not. Being able to separate fact from fiction can prove difficult, with some information seeming plausible when in fact it isn't true. During times like these, rumours and misinformation can be dangerous. We've gathered the most common claims about coronavirus and pets experts wished would stop circulating, as well as found out some truths.

FALSE

There is no evidence cats or dogs can be a source of COVID-19 to people, you can still interact with your pet as usual.

In fact, studies have found there are many mental health benefits of having a pet, including:

  • Combating loneliness
  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression
  • Reduces levels of stress and anxiety
  • Pet owners have lower blood pressure in stressful situations
  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax

 

However, it is recommended if you do contract coronavirus (COVID-19) to arrange for a family member or friend who would be willing to take care of your pet. if you are unable to arrange for someone to care for your pet, protect them by:

  • Limiting the contact you have with your pet, just as you would with other people
  • Avoid direct contact with your pet, including petting, cuddling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food
  • Avoid sneezing or coughing on or near you pet
  • Wash your hands before and after every interaction you have with your pet and their feeding bowls, toys and toileting items, and wear a face mask

FALSE

There is no reason why you shouldn't adopt a pet now. In fact, if you've been thinking of adopting a pet for a while (and can afford their health care, food, and everything else that goes along with having a pet), now may be the perfect time to do so.

While many of us are finding ourselves spending unplanned time at home social distancing, it is a perfect opportunity to help your newest family member settle into their new home, spend quality time with them, as well as time to dedicate training and bonding with them. But remember to think about how your newest family member will be looked after when you go back to work.

There are also many studies showing owning a pet has numerous benefits to our emotional wellbeing. For many people, pets will be a significant source of companionship and comfort over the coming months.

Animal shelters are also currently experiencing low volunteer numbers due to many people self-isolating and social distancing. Due to this, shelters are finding it increasingly difficult for animals to be taken care of as they normally would be. Shelters are also bracing for an influx of pets being surrendered due to people no longer being able to afford their pet's care through losing their job or no longer having a steady income. The RSPCA, and other shelters, have put out a call for those who are capable to adopt or foster a pet.

FALSE

There is no evidence our pets are carriers of COVID-19, so face masks are unnecessary. In fact, pets may experience breathing difficulties if they were to wear a mask.

TRUE AND FALSE

The current spread of COVID-19 results from human-to-human transmission. Our pets cannot catch this form of coronavirus. However, our pets may be fomites for it. A fomite is a surface that can transmit disease, anything can be a fomite. The virus can survive on soft fabrics for a few hours - like our pet's fur, but it tends to survive best on hard surfaces like countertops and doorknobs. If your pet is exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive, it's theoretically possible virus particles could be picked up if, for example, that person coughs into their hand then strokes your pet.

It is recommended you should wash your pet if they have come in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive.

 

Top tips for washing your pet:

  • Don't over wash your pet as it can dry out their skin and coat, cause skin irritation and skin disorders, and interfere with external worming and flea treatments. The general guideline is every four weeks, depending on their activities (like rolling in mud!).
  • If you are concerned you are over washing, or even under washing you furry friend, talk to your vet.
  • Use lukewarm water. Hot water can burn dogs more easily than humans, bath water should be no hotter than what you'd use for a human baby.
  • Use pet-friendly shampoo. Human shampoo can easily dry their skin. If your pet has a skin condition, talk to your vet about the best product to use.
  • Don't use bleach or any other household cleaning products.
  • Rinse well. Any soap left in their fur can irritate their skin once they're dry.
  • Air dry. A human hairdryer can be too hot for our pet's skin. It's best to air dry or use a specially designed dryer for pets.

FALSE

This is a rumour that has been spreading online. There is no evidence pets can be infected with COVID-19 and transmit to humans.

FALSE

With hand sanitiser now being a staple everywhere, it's good to know it can be toxic to our pets if ingested in large amounts. Most hand sanitiser often contains ethanol (alcohol). Like other types of alcohol, hand sanitiser can be toxic to our pets, with symptoms increasing in severity depending on the amount ingested. However, your pet licking your hands after sanitising them is not cause for concern as they won't ingest nearly enough to cause side effects.

 

If you are unsure the information and advice you are reading about online is correct, please talk with your vet. We'll be debunking more myths as they come up, and you can also keep up-to-date with our Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Pets blog.