Coronavirus UK: Avoid ‘petting and snuggling’ with pets, vets warn as COVID-19 surges

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has infected more than 85,000 people globally, including at least 23 people from the UK. Nearly 3,000 people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus have died and pet owners are concerned for the safety of their pooches and their moggies.

On Saturday, February 29, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) issued official guidance on how to protect yourself and your pets.

Although there is no evidence of COVID-19 infecting animals, WSAVA noted “this is a rapidly evolving situation”.

Coronaviruses are a zoonotic family of pathogens, meaning they infect both animals and humans alike.

SARS-CoV-2 is beta-coronavirus that targets humans with respiratory symptoms similar to the flu and pneumonia.

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There are, however, coronavirus strains that can attack dogs and cats with symptoms such as mild diarrhoea.

In the case of COVID-19, WSAVA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised infected people from physically interacting with their pets.

The CDC said: “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people.

“Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

“When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.

“If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

“If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.”

WSAVA also said: “We don’t yet know if companion animals can get infected by SARS-Cov-2 or sick with COVID-19.

“If your pet develops an unexplained illness and has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19, talk to the public health official working with the person infected with COVID-19.

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“If your area has a public health veterinarian, the public health official will consult with them or another appropriate official.

“If the state public health veterinarian, or other public health official, advises you to take your pet to a veterinary clinic, call your veterinary clinic before you go to let them know that you are bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19.

“This will allow the clinic time to prepare an isolation area.

“Do not take the animal to a veterinary clinic unless you are instructed to do so by a public health official.”

The coronavirus first appeared in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei Province, in December last year.

Since the outbreak, the disease has travelled far beyond China’s borders, infecting people in more than 30 countries.

Infections have been confirmed in the US, Canada, Germany, France and the Uk.

Outside of mainland China, the biggest coronavirus hotspots are in South Korea and Italy.

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