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Coronavirus and Pets: What Should You Do Now?

Fanni Kaszás 2020.03.27.

In the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic that significantly changes daily life, responsible animal owners also need to be prepared for emergency situations so that their pets can be safe. They should also take precautions and assign one or more temporary caregivers in case they have to stay in the hospital or find themselves quarantined and cannot be at home with their pets. In recent weeks, much misinformation and fake news are also spreading concerning animals, which can lead to panic and fear-mongering, and may cause some people to get rid of their animals; therefore, we have collected all useful information and advice on the care of animals during the pandemic.

Experts say pets can’t catch coronavirus

Although there were reports of a dog that tested positive in Hong Kong back in February, experts agree that pets are almost definitely not able to catch the virus. Since then, thousands of dog and cat samples have been tested, for example at US-based IDEXX Laboratories, a world leader in veterinary diagnostics, and so far, have not been positive. Test results are consistent with current expert opinions that although pets can get coronaviruses, they are not at all the same as the virus associated with this current outbreak, which spread primarily in human-to-human transmission.

The chance is also extremely low to catch the disease from pets, as the main way the disease spreads is when people stand close to each other or from respiratory droplets. When dogs and cats show signs of respiratory symptoms, it is advisable to consult the vet and test for the most common respiratory pathogens rather than the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, although scientists and experts all agree that pets cannot catch the disease, some news emerged of Hungarian owners who got rid of their pets in fear of getting the coronavirus from them and some even killed their dogs and cats.

Advices for pet owners during coronavirus crises

In an outbreak of a coronary virus epidemic that significantly changes daily life, responsible animal owners also need to be prepared for emergency situations so that their pets can be safe. Although on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced a curfew in Hungary and people are only allowed to leave their homes to go to work or to run essential errands as of tomorrow, March 28th, it does not limit pet owners to walk their dogs and take them to the vet or animal hospital. However, it is important that when walking the dogs, owners should be alone, or with others from the same household and keep at least 1.5 meters distance from everyone else. During the pandemic, they should not let others pet their dogs and cats either.

Coronavirus: PM Orbán Announces Curfew between March 28 and April 11

To help keep pets safe, pet owners should be prepared for unexpected situations in advance. Hungarian authority Nébih prepared some advice for them in case they have to stay in hospital or are quarantined and cannot be at home with their pets. They advise pet owners to print and put a sticker on their front door so that people in their area know that an animal is in the apartment, in case of an emergency, and can inform a designated person that their owner cannot care for the pet anymore.

Daily feeding of animals is basically guaranteed in the case of home quarantine, but as a precaution, it is advisable to get a little more than the usual amount of food so there will be a reserve. People in home quarantine should make arrangements for dog walking with friends and acquaintances in advance.

Photo by János Vajda/MTI

It is a good idea to think ahead about how to ensure the care of the pet in the event of a prolonged absence, such as a hospital stay. Assign a temporary caregiver from family members, neighbors, or friends in advance and mark it on the door that there’s a pet in the house. In case there is no temporary caregiver, it may also be possible to ensure the temporary placement of pets with the involvement of the local authority or available shelters. Nébih also advises to keep the animal’s vaccine book, medication, and dosage information, medical records and food in an easily accessible place.

They also draw attention to the fact that interrupting the vaccine series of puppies may require the repeating of the entire vaccine series, so owners should consult their doctors when the next vaccination is due. In the case of older animals, vaccinations can wait a few weeks.

Animal shelters also feel the crisis

Some of the shelters in the capital and the countryside feed the animals with leftover food from school and kindergarten canteens. However, the closure of schools and universities have eliminated this possibility. Some organizations that are committed to helping shelters are organizing fundraisers to help animals survive during the pandemic. A shelter with hundreds of animals simply does not have the financial resources to manage the crisis and feed the dogs for months without donations and leftover food, as animal protection organizations in Hungary fund themselves.

Donations have also significantly decreased since the outbreak of the epidemic and voluntary work has also waned. Another problem is that since the borders in Europe have been closed, it has become virtually impossible to help rescued dogs and cats find their forever home in other, mainly Western countries (which is much-needed, as it is increasingly difficult to find potential owners in Hungary).

Therefore, several organizations are asking for donations even with as much as one day’s food to help the orphaned animals in shelters.

In the featured photo: a dog rescued by FAPF. Photo by Kata Radványi/Hungary Today