COVID-19 & What You Need to Know as a Pet Owner

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is changing our lives as we know it. In Canada, a state of emergency has been declared and all non-essential services have been shut down for the foreseeable future. In these unprecedented times, many pet owners are wondering how to keep their furry friends safe. We've rounded up some of the most frequently asked questions to keep you informed & up to date!
Q: Can pets contract COVID-19?
A: The risk of your dog or cat contracting COVID-19 is exceedingly low!
To date, there have been only a few, isolated cases of pets testing positive for COVID-19. Even more reassuring is that the majority of pets that tested positive remained healthy and didn't show any signs of illness. In all of these cases, the animals that tested positive had been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. In other words, keeping yourself healthy and safe will go a long way towards keeping your pets healthy and safe too!
Q: Can pets spread COVID-19?
After returning from a walk, it's important to wipe down your dog's paws with non-toxic wipes, and schedule a weekly bath.
A: There is a small possibility that the virus could be spread indirectly on the skin or fur of pets, but this is highly unlikely and the risk can be easily managed by following recommended social distancing and hand washing guidelines.

COVID-19 is spread from person to person through tiny droplets produced when an infected person sneezes, coughs, talks or even exhales. The virus can spread indirectly, when someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes. Gail Golab, the AVMA's chief veterinary officer told The Washington Post, "...the virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs. Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch."
Q: Can I still take my dog for a walk?
The same rules of social distancing that apply to you also apply to your dog. This means not petting other people's dogs, and not letting other people pet your dog.
A: As long as you are not sick you absolutely can, and should, take your dog for a walk!
Fresh air, exercise and natural light are essential
for the physical and mental health of pets and people alike, and in these trying times, self-care has never been more important. So, leash up your pooch, grab a bottle of hand sanitizer for the road, and enjoy a relaxing stroll in the fresh, spring air! But while you and your pup are out and about, keep in mind that the same rules of social distancing that apply to you also apply to your dog.
This means not petting other people's dogs, and not letting other people pet your dog.
Leash & Paws quick tips!
Do your best to stay at least 2 metres away from other people and their dogs during your walk.

Plan to walk your dog at times of the day when there is likely to be less foot traffic and consider venturing into quieter neighbourhoods; Your walk will be much more enjoyable and relaxing if you're not spending the whole time dodging the human obstacles coming your way!

Stick to on-leash walks to limit your dog's contact with other people and their pets.

And of course, wash your hands thoroughly when you return home from your walk!
Q: What about dog walking if I live in a condo?
A: Condo living with a dog can be challenging at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. No private backyard means countless trips up and down in a cramped and potentially crowded elevator, walking through a highly trafficked front lobby, and touching numerous buttons and door handles along the way. But, there are ways for condo dwellers to minimize risk and exposure when walking their dogs!
Consider entering and exiting your building through an alternate access point instead of through the main lobby. Condo lobbies are busy places and can easily become overcrowded with building security, cleaning staff, delivery drivers and residents, all of which makes social distancing that much harder. If possible, give yourself some extra space and take your dog out a side or back door or even through the parking garage.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only are you far less likely to run into other people, this has the added benefit of being a great workout for you and your pet! If the stairs are not an option, be prepared to wait for an empty elevator and don't hesitate to ask others to do the same. A global pandemic is no time to be shy about speaking your mind – politely, of course – we are Canadian after all!
Whether you're taking the elevator, stairs, front door or back door, try not to touch any potentially contaminated surfaces along the way such as elevator buttons, handrails or door knobs. If you do need to touch something, use your elbow, the sleeve of your shirt or a tissue – and don't touch your face! These tips and tricks may require some extra planning and patience, but the health and well-being of you and your pup are well worth the effort!
Q: How can I care for my dog if I have COVID-19?
Keep a one month supply of your pet's food, treats, medications and poop bags on hand at all times during this pandemic.
A: In an ideal world, if you have or are suspected of having COVID-19, someone else (a family member, friend, neighbour) should provide care for your dog until
you are fully recovered. This allows you to get the rest you need and focus on getting better while keeping your pet safe.

If having someone else care for your pet is not a viable option, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after interacting with them, preparing their food and handling their supplies (toys, leash, etc.). Try to avoid close face-to-face contact with your pet, such as cuddling, being kissed or licked and sharing food. Since you shouldn't leave home while self-isolating, consider using pee pads or an artificial grass patch if you don't have a private yard for your dog to do its business. It's also a good idea to keep a one month supply of your pet's food, treats, medications and poop bags on hand at all times during this pandemic – 'hope for the best, plan for the worst' are words to live by in times like these!

During these times of stress and uncertainty, our pets can be a source of great comfort. So, take advantage of the slower pace and working from home by enjoying some quality time with the four-legged members of your family – your pets will love the extra cuddles and playtime, and you'll be doing your part to help flatten the curve.
Text author: Sarah Kmiec
Photography: Unspalsh

APRIL, 14 / 2020