THRIVE’s Dr. Krista Miller is back on this week’s All Things Considered from NPR to answer more of your questions surrounding Coronavirus and pets. Listen to the interview here or read a shortened version below.
Scientists agree that COVID-19 originally spread to humans from animals, and that has a lot of you wondering about the safety of your pets at home. To help answer your questions, we brought back Dr. Krista Miller, at veterinarian at THRIVE Affordable Vet Care in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Q: Can household pets, specifically dogs and cats, contract or transmit COVID-19? If so, how would they do it -through their saliva, breath or their hair?
A: Looking at transmission, anything is possible. It is possible, however, this disease in animals as a primary host or a type of host period is still being researched, as well as the disease transmission process itself. There is still no evidence to suggest that animals, including pets that may be incidentally infected by humans, are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. Still, the most important thing to note is human outbreaks are still driven by person to person transmission.
Q: I hear the virus cannot be pass on by pets, but is this true? If it can be carried by objects touched or breathed on, it only makes sense that it could be carried by a pet’s fur onto another person.
A: Looking at animals in general and even at the transmission of it from other sources and surfaces, you need to consider if the surface is porous or non-porous. With a lot of your porous surfaces, the disease itself is not transmitted. You get it primarily from non-porous substances and that is even secondarily. Again, the major route of transmission is through saliva secretions from people. So when dealing with pets, its wise to start with the same protocols we practice every day – don’t let them near your food, don’t like them lick you in the face or mouth and wash your hands after handling them. A commonsense approach is the most important thing.
Q: When are we expected to have enough PPE (personal protective equipment) for veterinary care?
A: We do have protective equipment and are still ordering without issue. Currently, animal medical manufacture companies are not reporting any shortages. You may have a clinic here or there that has some shortages, but what (the manufacturing companies) are doing, is limiting the number of items you can order so there is enough for everyone, to prevent these shortages from occurring. What you are hearing is veterinary personal being asked to donate PPE to the human medical industry, which can add to the idea of a potential shortage. With that said, we have been asked to postpone elective medical procedures, reuse our masks when we can and consider reusable items versus disposal gowns to help combat a potential shortage. Right now, at my clinic, we do not have a shortage. So, it is not a huge issue in most places.
Q: If our pets are breathing the same air, with the same type of lungs, why haven’t we seen a mass death in animals?
A: If you look at it from a biological aspect, you have some diseases that are more species-specific. As the disease evolves, they can affect or infect species differently. In the case of COVID-19, we’ve seen even with children, they don’t seem to be as affected as adults. Those with pre-existing conditions or geriatric are affected differ than those that are healthy. With different immune systems, you have different outcomes when people are infected or exposed. This is not an animal to animal issue; it is a human to human transmission. So even though we all breathe air and have lungs, we are all different species, so we will be affected differently, if at all.
Q: As a senior, I live alone with no family nearby. What is the best way to ensure my pet is taken care of if I must go to the hospital due to COVID-19?
A: If you do have family and friends, be sure to network in advance in case something does happen to you. In this case, this person has no family, but they may have a friend or even someone from the vet clinic they can contact. If you do have a pet, consider making a pet emergency kit. This should contain 2 weeks’ worth of food and any medication they may need. In addition, get them microchipped, have them updated on their vaccines, heartworm and flea prevention. You can investigate boarding, so you have short-term arrangements until the owner returns from the hospital. Always make sure your pet has proper identification, like their name and owner contact information, which will be super important in a time like this.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our additional questions Dr. Miller! Stay safe and we’ll talk to you soon.