Ask the Vet

Pets Ease Stress in Hard Times

The risks of both humans and animals contracting COVID-19 continue to be a source of concern, but the companionship of pets is helping many get through these challenging times. (PF photo by Becky Mills)

Question

There continues to be so much information, and misinformation, about COVID-19 that I am overwhelmed. I don't know what to believe. Are our pets and livestock at risk of getting this disease, or passing it on to us?

Answer

As I write this, we believe the risk to animals is extremely low, and the risk of getting COVID-19 from animals is even lower.

There have been sporadic documented cases in cats, ferrets, mink, tigers, lions and dogs. I know of no documented cases in livestock. Transmission of this disease appears to be largely person to person, with aerosol transmission being the most efficient method.

Additionally, according to the FDA, "there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19."

Pets and livestock should be treated like other family members during these times. Minimize their contact with people outside the household. If a person becomes sick with COVID-19, he or she should be isolated from both people and pets, and good sanitation should be implemented. There is certainly no reason to abandon pets out of fear.

In the U.S., we are seeing a rise in cat and dog adoptions. Pets can help people better deal with stress, anxiety and depression. They always have and they always will.

COVID-19 is a rapidly emerging disease. What we know and what we don't know changes every day. Not to make light of this, but I am reminded of what we were told our first day of veterinary school: "We have bad news and worse news. The bad news is half of what we teach you is wrong. The worse news is we don't know which half."

Science is always in a state of flux. The uncertainty and conflicting reports have always been out there. I firmly believe we will not only survive this pandemic, we will come out of it stronger and more united.

I also believe people are looking at what matters most in their lives right now. From family to pets to gardening, we are seeing a reordering of priorities. The public has seen just how important American agriculture is. We feed the world. That's pretty awesome.