While times are uncertain during today’s pandemic, life still goes on—which means there’s a chance your pet may need veterinary care. Fortunately, animal care providers are considered an essential business, which means your pet can see a veterinarian in case of emergency. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has helped veterinarians come up with safety protocols and guidelines to ensure clients and staff remain healthy. One of the AVMA’s primary recommendations? Veterinary telehealth—and here’s how it can work for your pet.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth allows veterinarians to use technology to make health recommendations and educate owners over the phone or computer. It allows people to stay home during the current COVID-19 crisis and can help many pets. 

Two weeks after declaring a national emergency in the United States due to COVID-19, the Food and Drug administration temporarily suspended certain requirements related to veterinary telehealth. Veterinarians can now prescribe medications without conducting a physical exam.

Telehealth allows veterinarians to practice better social distancing while still providing veterinary care. It is also critical to keep veterinarians safe, because if they have an outbreak, the clinic may have to be closed which would affect other community members.

What Can Telehealth Treat?

Barring life-threatening emergencies, telehealth can help animals under most circumstances, though a veterinarian may still recommend an animal be seen. Here are some situations when telehealth is appropriate: (Note: Each individual provider will have their own recommendations.)

-   Itchy skin and skin infections

-    Mild ear infections

-    Mild eye discharge

-    Diarrhea or vomiting

o   If only a few episodes and patient seems to be happy and feeling well

o   Flare up of chronic diarrhea or vomiting

-    Recheck of surgical incisions that are healing well and do not require stitches to be removed

-    Mild respiratory symptoms such as nasal discharge

-    Noticeable parasites in stool

-    Management of chronic diseases, such as hypothyroidism, where blood work may be able to be postponed if:

o   Your pet is doing well

o   Medication dosages were not changed at last visit

o   Not diagnosed with condition within the last month

-    Rechecks of mild limping if x-rays were already taken and there is improvement

-    Quality of life consults

-    Nutrition consults

-    Anxiety or other behavioral issues

A treatment plan with medication or nutrition may be prescribed over telehealth. These medications may be able to be called into a pharmacy, ordered online or picked up at the veterinary office. Telehealth will also educate the owner on what to monitor, and if the pet has not improved, when to seek urgent care. 

A veterinarian can also use video calls to look at your pet and do an exam from a distance if there is something you would like to point out. You can also email videos and photos to your veterinarian, to obtain as much information as possible.

Telehealth can help get your pet up to speed.

If you have to go to the veterinarian:

Many veterinary hospitals that have remained open are going “curbside,” which means clients are not able to enter the building. Staff will take pets into the hospital, and all correspondence (including your veterinarian’s findings and recommendations) will be done via phone. Some clinics are open for medication pickups, too. 

First things first: Before bringing your pet to the vet during this world crisis, ask yourself if the appointment is essential and worth the risk. If your pet’s situation isn’t emergent, it may be wise to start with telehealth.  

Resources: Commissioner, Office of the. “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Helps Facilitate Veterinary Telemedicine During Pandemic.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 24 Mar. 2020. “COVID-19: Protecting Your Veterinary Team during the Pandemic.” American Veterinary Medical Association, Mar. 2020. “Veterinary Telehealth: The Basics.” American Veterinary Medical Association. Photos: Top: Ayla Verschueren Middle: Yucel Moran Bottom: Alvan Nee

The COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping across the world, causing disruptions and uncertainty at just about every turn. For most of us, this type of living on the edge isn’t something that we’ve ever experienced before.

While the far-reaching implications of this virus are impacting just about every industry, there’s one sector that it’s hitting especially hard: veterinary practices and pet shelters. Organizations that treat, help, or care for animals are facing their own set of challenges now.

With different countries, and individual U.S. states continually in limbo and with new guidelines continually being rolled out, shelters and veterinary practices have had to quickly adjust to keep up. The threat of eminent lockdowns and the uncertainty of it all is taking a toll, impacting how pet shelters and veterinary practices operate.

While shelters normally rely heavily on the generosity of donors and volunteers, in these uncertain times they’re even more in need of donations. But monetary contributions aren’t the only way to support your local shelter; there are many other ways that we can all chip in to offer support, while at the same time looking to keep our pets and families healthy, happy, and safe.

With lockdown measures forthcoming in a number of different countries –and even in effect in some U.S. states, the time for action is now. With this in mind, here’s a look at some things that each of us can do to step up and help –today.

Keep Calm: And Do Your Research

There’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 –especially when it comes to the full implications that it will have on our lives. Unfortunately, this uncertainty is feeding misinformation and giving rise to fear. Many people don’t fully understand this virus, and there have been plenty of theories circulating on social media and elsewhere about its origins and spread.

Some people are even taking desperate and misguided measures in an attempt to secure some sort of protection against it.

Dr. Evan Shaw, a Brisbane, Australia-based registered veterinary surgeon mentioned that there have even been a few reports of break-ins at clinics in Australia, where people have stolen canine coronavirus vaccines, presumably to inject themselves in a bid to ward off COVID-19. This, of course, is based on the theory that canine coronavirus, is the same strand as the COVID-19 variety that’s circulating the globe. (Spoiler alert: it’s not!).

Dr. Shaw said that there have also been a handful of cases where concerned pet-owners have tried to surrender their pets, fearing that their pets might catch the disease and pass it on to them –even though there’s no evidence of this actually happening.

For anyone today, the best option is a clear, levelheaded approach. Take time to research the virus, its origins, and how it spreads. Then take precautions, and follow government guidelines, while at the same time ensuring that you don’t get caught up in the mass hysteria.

“It is not the flu, it is not a joke, it could be you,” said Dr. Shaw, emphasizing the importance of everyone pulling together during this time. He urges people to follow the current government guidelines, and stay safe.

What about stockpiling essentials? A number of people are rushing to get in months supplies worth of dog food. While it’s a good idea to have enough for a period where you may need to end up self-quarantining, Dr. Shaw says, but there’s no need to stock up on 2-3 months’ worth of goods. There are enough food reserves, despite the temporary lag that it takes to get items from the warehouse to the shelf, so prepare and plan, but don’t go crazy.

There’s a lot that we can do to help, even if that simply means staying calm and applying a rational approach during these trying times.

Note: For more information on COVID-19, its origins and spread check out: How do animal viruses like Coronavirus jump species by Tara C. Smith, a professor of epidemiology at the Kent State University College of Public Health.

Donate If You Can

Many shelter directors are issuing a plea for donations at this time. Many of us are facing financial uncertainty now, but for shelters that rely largely on donations, even small contributions can make a big difference.

Choosing from a shelter’s Amazon wish list is another easy way to contribute.

See: ACC of NYC Wish List

Shelters that don’t have an online wish list may be able to accept pet food or supply donations, dropped at their door. It’s best to call or email your local shelter directly and ask what you can do to help.

Different protocols are in place at different locations during this time, so it may be impossible to pick up and deliver supplies in some cities. But for other locations, now might be an ideal time.

Consider Fostering or Adopting

For those who are willing and able, one step that could help overburdened shelters is for people to consider fostering or even adopting a dog.

“With shelters at full capacity, anyone who is spending more time at home from work and is available to foster a pet, this would be a tremendous help,” said Taylor Wheeler, a certified dog behaviorist and founder of the Pink Paw Program, which provides international education about dog behavior and safety.

“If you have a secure yard and pet-friendly homes please consider contacting your local shelter,” Ms Wheeler advises.

While the prospect of taking on one more responsibility during these uncertain times may seem overwhelming to some, there are some tremendous benefits to having a pet around. For one, animals can help to alleviate stress and provide companionship, something that all of us will need if we’re asked to self-isolate or shelter in place.

Animal shelters in many cities across the U.S. are issuing pleas for people who are able to foster.

“Having a pet around ... is good for your head,” Eric Rayvid –a spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare non-profit, told the HuffPost. “It’s going to take you out of yourself a little bit. If you get a dog, it’s going [to] force you to go outside. If you get a cat, it’s going to force you to spend some time cuddling.”

What are the requirements for adopting a dog? These vary, but shelters are doing everything they can do to make the adoption process as seamless as possible. Some, like one Florida-based shelter, are even temporarily waiving adoption fees. Some are offering a free pet adoption in exchange for a bag of dog food, while many have streamlined paperwork to allow adoptions to take place from the car.

If you have any issues or questions on animal behavior, there are online resources available that can help. The Australia-based Pink Paw Program offers free correspondence training, and a list of free dog training and animal-related resources can also be found at the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers’ website.

Keep Up With Shelters Via Social Media

It’s also a good idea to follow local shelters on social media. This will alert you to any developments and allow you to keep up-to-date with their needs.

Animal Haven, a New York City-based animal rescue that is still, for the moment, is facilitating adoptions at their location by appointment only, says that while the thing they need most right now is monetary donations, even if people can’t donate now, could still stay up-to-date with their needs via social media.

“Watch our website, Instagram, and Twitter for pretty much daily updates on what is going on,” Tiffany Lacey, Animal Haven’s executive director, said in an interview with the HuffPost. “Because we’re just trying, as everyone else is, to make sense of what is happening every day, and what might happen tomorrow. And what we need to do to make sure the animals are safe.”

Meanwhile, on a global scale, many shelters have to close temporarily. UK-based pet shelter and charity Battersea –which requires home visits in order to facilitate adoptions, has temporarily suspended all adoptions. Although the RSPCA, another UK-based shelter and charity, has so far managed to continue its operations; while restriction adoptions to an appointment-only basis.

Veterinary practices, though, remain largely open; at least in the U.S., Australia, and the UK. As they provide essential services, they won’t be shuttering up any time soon. They’re largely operating on a reduced scale though, limiting contact with the public while continuing to provide essential services. The AVMA recommends that veterinary clinics continue to provide care for acutely sick or injured animals while rescheduling elective procedures.

Keep Your Pets With You

Finally, one of the most important things that we can do is to keep our pets with us at this time.

Shelters simply cannot accept the numbers that they were before, and during this time of short-staff or even outright closures, there’s simply no capacity to take on any new animals. For those who are considering surrendering an animal at this time, experts would like to advise them to reconsider.

“The number of dog surrenders is climbing as it is,” said Ms Wheeler. “Now with this virus more and more dog owners are enquiring about surrendering their pet due to health concerns. However, rescue groups and pounds are urging people to hold off on that decision as they are trying to reduce the number of pets taken in at this time.”

“With the risk of staff shortage, our volunteers and carers simply cannot take on more work and they should not have to. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their pets at this point in time.

It is important that pet owners understand that there is no evidence of this virus being transferred from cat or dog to human, which was stated by The World Health Organisation,” she continued.

“We ask that no one makes any irrational decisions and that they carry on with their pet’s normal routine and care so that we can all get through this difficult time together.”

While many people might be concerned about a change in routine, and working from home, Dr. Shaw mentioned that one silver lining is that overall animal welfare has skyrocketed, and overall pets are benefiting tremendously from this change. “They get to be around their favorite people,” he said, “and for a pet, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

While most cats will probably fare just fine during prolonged periods of social isolation, dogs are another story. For those who are concerned about how to keep high-energy dogs exercise and entertained during a potential lockdown, Dr. Shaw suggests finding some indoor games that you can do with your pet. (Check out this helpful list for some ideas.)

While there have been cases of pet surrender, Dr. Shaw said that by and large most pet-owners are taking a far more rational approach.

“Keeping your pets with you during this time is one of the best things that you can do,” he advised. “You might be facing weeks, if not longer in isolation, and having a dog, cat, even a hamster with you can give you that contact that you might not be able to have with another person.

“The best thing that you can do right now is to prepare –and give your dog a hug.”


For more resources and updates during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: the Human Society.

For a list of U.S. rescue centers, see the American Kennel Club’s rescue network.

Free dog training and animal-related resources can be found at the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers’ website and the Pink Paw Program.

COVID-19 is sweeping across much of the world, leaving us concerned and wondering what we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Naturally, this includes our pets as well.

One of the main questions that everyone’s asking is: can the virus be transmitted between people and pets? While the disease is most prominent in humans, are we going to find Coronavirus in dogs or Coronavirus in cats? 

If you’re searching for answers, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ve sourced advice from some of the top veterinarians as well as guidance from WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to bring you up-to-date on what we know about Coronavirus in dogs.

Understanding Coronaviruses

First up, it’s important to understand the virus –where it comes from and how it operates.

COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, a category of virus that’s aptly named for its crown-shaped circles that can be seen when viewed under a microscope.


coronavirus under a microscope

There are a number of different types of coronaviruses –and they all vary considerably across the board –from relatively mild colds to the far more severe and notorious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

It’s worth noting that coronaviruses have their origins in animals, although they usually stay within their own species. However, occasionally the viruses end up crossing into another species. In many cases, this isn’t too much cause for concern. Usually, the result is what’s known as a “dead-end virus” –it spread from an animal to a human, but it ends there and isn’t able to spread from human to human. Every so often, though, a virus becomes a novel human-adapted virus, finding a way to jump species, while enabling the efficient spread between humans. This eventually leads to an epidemic and is what happened with SARS and MERS, which had their origins in civets and camels. 

But that doesn’t mean that COVID-19 can be passed back and forth from humans to their pets. 

While the disease originally would have had its origins in an animal; possibly a bat, that doesn’t mean that it can simply travel back and forth between different species at random.

“Coronavirus itself has been around forever,” explains Oakridge Veterinary Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Nell Griscom. “Dogs get it, cats get it, but they are different varieties of coronavirus. As far as we know, the COVID-19 is not contagious to dogs and people can’t get it from their dogs or give it to their dogs or cats.”

Dr. Brennen McKenzie VMD, a veterinarian with Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Gatos, Calif., agrees.

“The risk to and from pets appears low at this time,” Dr. McKenzie says. “Animals spread viruses between one another that are genetically distinct from human viruses,” he continues. “The genetic distinction makes it extremely difficult for humans and their pets to pass diseases on to one another. (Except for the rabies virus, which is known to be transmitted from dogs to people. In the US, rabies is rare because dogs are required to be vaccinated against rabies.)”

Note: For a fascinating look into COVID-19, its origins and spread from animals to humans check out: How do animal viruses like Coronavirus jump species by Tara C. Smith, a professor of epidemiology at the Kent State University College of Public Health.

What About the Dog in Hong Kong?

News of a dog in Hong Kong testing positive for the virus last month has sparked rumors of potential cross-species transmission of COVID-19.

The animal in question was a Pomeranian belonging to a COVID-19 patient in Hong Kong. The animal had tested “weakly positive.” There were traces of the virus on his nasal cavity and mouth. The dog himself, however, did not show any signs of the virus. 

The most likely scenario experts say, is that although the animal had traces of the virus, having been in contact with a person who had the virus –but he wasn’t necessarily infected with it. 

Another explanation could be that he was infected, but had a low-level infection. In some cases, viruses can infect a species but not cause illness in that species, nor become transmissible to others. 

“The dog had low levels of the virus in its nose and mouth…and could have picked it up from the patient with the virus—or from surfaces he had touched,” explains Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH and founder of a concierge practice, Animal Acupuncture in New York City. “Since dogs’ noses and mouths come in contact with just about everything, it is hard to say.” 

WHO is continuing to keep tabs on the situation, but maintains that there’s still no evidence that household pets can transmit COVID-19.

So far, the Pomeranian in question is the only dog in the world to have tested positive for canine coronavirus.

What Should You Do With Your Pets If You Contract COVID-19 or Self-Isolate?

For people with pets, there’s no such thing as over-prepared. It’s a good idea to create a contingency plan ahead of time –just in case. 

Taking Precautions

Experts say there’s no need to worry, that transmission between humans and pets is highly unlikely. It’s also not advisable for your pet to wear a mask –experts say these are generally a bad idea for animals, and could even restrict breathing.

Still, it’s worth taking some precautions, to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Even though there’s a very low risk of human-to-pet transmission, there’s still the issue of contamination. Experts believe that the virus can live on a surface for up to three days. A pet’s fur, for example, could potentially act as a surface. 

There are some basic hygiene rules that you should follow anyway, for general health, and to help keep the risk of contamination down.

WHO recommends washing your hands after playing with or cuddling your dog. Aside from COVID-19 concerns, there’s the very real risk of a bacterial infection such as salmonella and E. coli –this type of bacteria can easily pass between pets and people. 

“If you have a pet that becomes sick after contact with people infected by COVID-19, it is important to contact your veterinarian,” says Dr. Barrack. 

“But remember it is highly unlikely that a dog, or a cat, could be infected,” she adds.

Just make sure you call your vet ahead of time and inform them of the situation, don’t just bring your pet in. The vet should be informed that the pet was in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Keeping Healthy: The Best Way to Protect Your Family (Human and Pet) From COVID-19

The following advice comes from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association.

Practical measures to protect yourself and your family from this or any other contagious respiratory illness include:

Practice good hygiene, keep a sensible distance from people –especially those who may be unwell, avoid crowds, and of course, make sure your pets are up-to-date on their shots. 

At this point, there’s a lot that we don’t know about this virus, particularly when it comes to contamination and spread. But there’s still a lot that we can do to help our families, including our beloved pets, to stay safe –and to help limit the spread of disease.

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