News is happening fast concerning the novel coronavirus (officially called COVID-19). Service Dogs present a special challenge for two reasons: 1) Service Dogs accompany their disabled handlers in public and 2) disabled handlers who use Service Dogs may have specific underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19. Anything Pawsable is working on developing continuing guidelines for Service Dog Handlers and Coronavirus COVID-19. This article will be updated continually as we have new and verified information.
Before we get into Service Dog Handlers and Coronavirus, let’s clear up a few things about how COVID-19 is different from the flu. The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Since this disease new, people do not have immunity to it and a functional vaccine could be several months or more away. Doctors and scientists are working on estimating the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, COVID-19 is thought to be deadlier than most strains of the flu.
Can dogs get coronavirus?
- First of all, there are many different types of coronavirus. The term “corona” refers to the crown shape the virus has when observed under a microscope. COVID-19 is the name for the specific type of coronavirus that is in the news today. Different coronaviruses can infect different species of animals and birds. There is a canine coronavirus ( technically called CCoV) which is a highly infectious intestinal infection in dogs, especially puppies. Canine coronavirus is usually short-lived, but may cause considerable abdominal discomfort. It is not transferable to humans.
- The coronavirus in the news is a new strain and is not thought to infect dogs.
Can dogs carry or transfer coronavirus to humans?
- Currently there is no evidence that pets, working dogs or service dogs can transfer COVID-19, however, details are still emerging about how COVID-19 is transmitted.
- No studies have been conducted on pets and questions remain about how long the virus is viable for on a dog’s fur, paws or saliva. Sheila McClelland, the founder of Hong Kong-based Lifelong Animal Protection Charity (LAP) wrote a letter to Hong Kong authorities which states, “Present evidence suggests that dogs are no more of a risk of spreading (coronavirus) than inanimate objects such as door handles.”
- We already know that coronaviruses can live on surfaces and objects. Researchers are currently studying how long the virus can exist on surfaces — but the most recent information is that it can last for up to three days. When a dog in Hong Kong tested positive, pets quickly became part of the coronavirus conversation. The case raised the alarming possibility that pets could become part of the transmission chain for COVID-19. However, many questions remain about the details of how best to respond, especially for Service Dog Handlers and Coronavirus.
How should Service Dog handlers and pet owners protect themselves from COVID-19?
- Good hygiene is the best practice to protect everyone from disease, not only concerning Service Dog Handlers and Coronavirus
- Discourage people from petting your Service Dog.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid large groups if possible.
- Some dog owners in China are using face masks on their animals, however we along with most other experts believe there is no benefit to this practice. In fact, the use of face masks on dogs can be distressing and could cause them to panic.
- Do not wash your dog with bleach, harsh detergents or spray them with disinfectants. Wash your dog as usual with dog shampoo and water.
- If you use a vest for your dog, wash it when you wash your dog.
- Clean high contact points more frequently.
- If you can, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer for times when you are unable to wash your hands. It is important that any hand sanitizer is at least 60 to 95 percent alcohol and that you rub your hands together until they are dry.
- Make sure that all your dog’s documentation is up-to-date and in order.
- Make sure that you and your dog are drinking plenty of water.
- Eat responsibly and healthy.
What should Service Dog owners and pet owners know if they are infected with COVID-19?
- The Center For Disease Control is continually updating guidelines on this rapidly evolving situation. Please refer to the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Public Health Professionals Managing People With COVID-19 in Home Care and Isolation Who Have Pets or Other Animals
- Your state public health veterinarian should be contacted by public health professionals, animal health professionals or veterinarians that have discovered a household animal with a new, concerning illness and that resides with a person with COVID-19. Some jurisdictions do not have state public health veterinarians, or geographic, resource, or time limitations may prevent public health veterinarian from managing a situation involving household animals.
- Treat pets as you would other household members and limit contact as much as possible including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.
- Service animals should be permitted to remain with their handlers.
- If possible, a household member should be designated to care for pets in the home.
- If the individual in home care and isolation must care for pet(s), including service animals, they should ensure they wash their hands before and after caring for pets and wear a facemask while interacting with pets, until they are medically cleared to return to normal activities.
- Please review our AP’s Hospital Access Rights for Service Dog Teams
Create a plan for your Service Dog or pet should you become unable to care for them
Do you have a plan in case you become physically unable to care for your Service Dog or pet? We all try to give the best lives to our animals, but what if you’re no longer able to provide the care they deserve? Learn how to create a plan for your animals if you become unable to care for them.
If you are a veterinarian or work at a veterinarian office
- Veterinarians and their staff should review and adhere to their biosafety and biosecurity protocols for infectious diseases to ensure the safety of their patients.
- Veterinarians and their staff should review the concepts in NASPHV Compendium of Veterinary Standard Precautions for Zoonotic Disease Prevention in Veterinary Personnelexternal icon. This document outlines routine infection prevention practices designed to minimize transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animals to veterinary personnel.
- These infection prevention and control guidelines should be consistently implemented in veterinary hospitals, regardless of ongoing outbreaks of infectious diseases, but are especially important during an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease such as COVID-19.Contact your state public health veterinarian if you are seeing a new, concerning illness in an animal that has had close contact with a person with COVID-19.
Who is at risk for COVID-19?
- According to the World Health Organization, people at highest risk for severe disease and death include people over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions.
- The death rate of COVID-19 is far higher than the flu. According to The New York Times, the death rate for flu in the United States 0.1% The death rate for COVID-19 is about 3.7%. However, varies widely based on age, health and geographic location. A February WHO study of more than 55,000 cases in China found that the highest morality rate was among people over 80 years of age (21.9%).
COVID-19 is not the flu
At first, media outlets tried to compare COVID-19 to the flu, but as details have emerged it’s clear they are different both in terms of symptoms and mortality rate. Coronavirus Disease or COVID-19 is caused by one type of virus: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. The flu is caused by any of several different types and strains of influenza viruses. Not all flu viruses are the same. Some types of flu viruses can make you very ill, while other types of flu cause milder symptoms. Learn about the different types of flu.
How are COVID-19 and the flu similar?
- Both COVID-19 and the flu cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
- Symptoms may be mild or severe, even fatal in some cases.
- Both can result in pneumonia.
How are COVID-19 and the flu transmitted?
- Both COVID-19 and the flu can be spread from person to person through contact on infected surfaces or through droplets expelled into the air from an infected person though coughing, sneezing or even talking.
- NEW: There is emerging evidence that COVID-19 may be airborne.
- The flu can be spread by an infected person for several days before their symptoms appear. However, we’re now learning that COVID-19 may have differences.
New details are emerging about how COVID-19 is transmitted.
- A study which is awaiting peer review from scientists at Princeton University, the University of California-Los Angeles and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is indicating that COVID-19 virus could remain viable in the air “up to 3 hours post aerosolization,” while remaining alive on plastic and other surfaces for up to three days. “Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days,” according to the study’s abstract.
- The test results suggest that humans could be infected by the disease simply carried through the air or on a solid surface, even if direct contact with an infected person does not occur. That finding, if accepted, would come in stark contrast to previous media reports that suggested the virus was not easily transmittable outside of direct human contact.
Coronavirus spread in the United States
The number of known coronavirus cases in the United States continues to grow quickly. As of this publishing, there have been at least 889,153 cases of coronavirus confirmed by lab tests and 44,317 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
How do you treat COVID-19 or the flu?
- No virus is treatable with antibiotics. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.
- Since both COVID-19 and the flu are caused by viruses, the only treatment is to address symptoms, such as reducing fever. Severe viral may require hospitalization and more advanced support such as mechanical ventilation.
How do you prevent COVID-19 or the flu?
- The main way to prevent both COVID-19 and the flu is through frequent and thorough hand washing. If you are sick, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home and limiting contact with others.
- Wearing face masks has been discouraged by experts unless (see next section).
Should you wear face masks?
- If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
Are there antiviral medications?
- There is no vaccine for COVID-19 is available at this time, though it is in progress.
- There are flu vaccinations available at many locations across the country.
Please be careful, not just with your own health, but also about the information you consume and share about COVID-19. Please check back for continuing guidelines for Service Dog Handlers and Coronavirus COVID-19.
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