The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has certainly impacted many aspects of our lives, whether they be work related, recreational, appointments with doctors for ourselves and with veterinarians for our pets. We are continuously following the latest news regarding this malady that frays our nerves as we try to get through each day. Our pets can read our emotions and “feed off” our stress, which could affect their behavior and health. There are strategies we can utilize to create a calmer atmosphere within our homes for our pets and ourselves to get us through this difficult time.
It has been scientifically proven that animals become calmer when they listen to classical music. The Humane Society of Carroll County plays classical music at their Shelter for the dogs and cats in their care. However, “talk radio’, news programs, loud rock and rap music agitates animals — and sometimes humans! If you do not have access to classical music, please turn on your radio to WBJC-FM. This station plays classical music 24 hours a day and the announcers have very soothing and pleasant voices. You might even recognize some of music from your childhood as tunes you heard on cartoon shows!
There are calming sprays and diffusers like Feliway for cats and DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) that can be sprayed on a pet’s bedding (but not directly on the pet) that can be purchased at pet supply stores and help to relieve stress. Also establishing a daily routine for our pets and children helps to provide them with more predictability in their lives.
Check pet food supply
You might want to have pet food delivered to you. Contact local pet supply stores to find out if they provide this service. Many stores have curbside pickup available if you call in advance. Chewy.com might be a good source for delivery your pet’s needs.
If your pet requires a prescription diet, your veterinarian may provide the food or direct you to a reliable source so that you can order it. Do not suddenly change your pet’s food but do so very gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upsets or other health issues.
If you have already scheduled an appointment for your pet, please contact the veterinary hospital days before the appointment because many of the area animal hospitals have established new protocols and may have shortened their hours because of the COVID-19 virus. Some are only treating emergency cases and may not be providing grooming and boarding services.
A pet owner may not be allowed to enter their buildings and the pet owner is asked to remain in their vehicle on the parking lot. A staff member would then come out to the vehicle and bring the pet into the hospital for the vet on duty to conduct an evaluation or treatment of the pet. Some hospitals ask the pet owner to call from their vehicle for information and to provide payment by credit card.
Please note that appointments with veterinary specialists may also be delayed and will need to be rescheduled on a later date. These requirements may be a nuisance to some people, however they were put into place to protect the hospital’s staff during this unsettling time.
COVID-19 and animals
The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, in a tiger with a respiratory illness at the Bronx Zoo in New York, making it the first instance of an animal in the United States being infected with COVID-19. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe that these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding the virus. This investigation is ongoing.
The CDC is still learning about this virus and working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Protecting your pets
If you are sick with COVID-19 (suspected or confirmed) you should limit contact with pets and other animals like you would around contacts with other people. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following strategies:
· When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. The person providing pet care should be wearing gloves, a mask and frequently washing their hands.
· Avoid contact with your pet including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.
· If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
Use social distancing
If you and your family have been feeling cooped up in your home and the weather is pleasant, a walk through your neighborhood with the family dog might be an enjoyable experience but should be done with caution.
· The dog should be walked with a short leash (6 feet in length) and held by an alert adult.
· Do not allow anyone to approach or pet your dog. You don’t know if they may be ill with COVID-19 and might sicken your dog.
Be a role model
Before you and your family set off for a walk, always carry “poop“ bags with you to clean up after your dog relieves himself. To further protect your hands, wear nitrile gloves and dispose of the feces in a trash can. By cleaning up after your dog, you may be preventing the spread of very nasty internal parasites like coccidia and giardia both of which are very contagious and occurs when a when a dog walks in an area where an infected dog had relieved himself. So stoop, scoop and pick up the poop!
Also don’t allow your dog to walk through or drink from ponds or puddles that may contain urine from rodents that can cause deadly leptospiroris.
Keep pets (and kids) busy
If you have kids who are budding artists and love animals, provide them with art supplies so they may create portraits of the family pets that could be hung in their rooms or throughout the house!
Karen Baker, the executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County, suggests checking out the Pinterest website for creative activities to keep kids occupied.
A fun family activity is to create enrichment toys that dispense treats like stuffing rubber Kong toys with a small dog biscuit and filling it with canned dog food. This activity can be accomplished by family members working together in an assembly line. The stuffed Kongs can be stored in a freezer and given to your dog to keep him busy in his crate when you are eating or not at home. If you have more than one dog, purchase at least two Kongs per dog, stuff and store them in your freezer. Crate the dogs separately with their Kongs. This versatile toy comes in several sizes and can be purchased from most pet supply stores and online. By the way, stuffed Kongs have been a big hit for the shelter dogs at the Humane Society of Carroll County.
During this time of uncertainty about the future, enjoy the company of your pets and loved ones! Don’t forget to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people, and please stay well.
Let’s all remember that with our pets we can make the best of this bad situation.
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Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.