Parents have already had to have the talk with their children about the need for social distancing and the reasons behind the new behavior. Americans who are taking health threats seriously are complying by keeping their kids at home and foregoing playdates with friends…even close family friends. There are no longer dinner dates, kids playing at the public parks, adults congregating at bars and restaurants, or any other public gathering spots. We don’t even hold sporting events anymore. But what about pet parents? Have you talked to your dog about social distancing? How do you make sure that your pet is also observing the new rules of conduct? The question has arisen from Italian mayors who took to social media to address the problem of social distancing in humans who use their animals as an excuse to go outside and mingle with other pet owners.
The real problem
So we all know that we can’t have a meaningful conversation with our pets about social distancing but we can have that talk with one another. Pet owners who use their pets as an excuse to go out in public and meet with other pet owners with the same intentions are in fact taking a chance on either contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Some do so without even realizing that they are rationalizing the legitimacy of walking their pets around the block for the purpose of exercising. Although this doesn’t apply to everyone it certainly does to some and there are plenty of civil servants in leadership positions in Italy who are calling people on their lack of responsiveness to the current crisis. For them, the time to use gently persuasive methods has come and gone and they’re openly criticizing those who willfully interact with others and who use their poor dogs as an excuse.
Is there a threat of transmission from humans to dogs?
The recent news about a lion that contracted the Coronavirus at a zoo is enough to alarm pet owners. Studies have shown that dogs and cats cannot get coronavirus, but if this is true what about the big cat who has tested positive? The good news is that there is no evidence to suggest that it is possible for dogs and cats to get the same strain of the virus from humans and vice versa. Veterinarians still support the fact that our pets need to get their daily exercise as usual, but social distancing should be strictly observed.
Can your dog infect you?
If you’re walking your dog and he comes into contact with someone who has the Coronavirus, and that person sneezes or thoughts, spraying your pet’s fur with droplets that contain the virus, it’s no different than touching an infected surface when you pet the dog. You’re getting the germs on your hands and coming into direct contact with the virus. The best thing that you can do if your dog is in close contact with others is to give him a good shampooing. It’s not a good idea to allow dogs or cats to roam the neighborhood because you don’t know who the pet may come in contact with. The odds of you becoming sick are greater than the chances of the dog becoming infected. Although the risks are extremely low, they still exist.
Advice from the ISPCA
According to Irish Times, pet owners also need to be responsible when walking their pets. This includes observing established guidelines for social distancing. Keep the 6-foot perimeter away from other humans when you’re out with your pet. Keep him on a short leash and always under your direct control. Restrict interactions with other animals and people and your walk will not put anyone at significant risk. This is how responsible pet owners ensure their dogs get the exercise that they need along with fresh air. It’s also a time when you can bond with your pet
How social distancing affects pets
Most of us who observe social distancing guidelines are staying at home as much as possible and avoiding crowds. We keep at least 6 feet in between us and others and limit close personal contact. This makes it harder for the virus to spread from one person to another. The changes in our lifestyles and behaviors will have an impact on our pets, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be a negative impact. Those who are working from home or forced to stay at home because they are nonessential workers have the opportunity to spend more time with pets. Those who are not ill can spend more time training their pets, playing with them and getting in some extra time building the relationship. Dogs can be wonderful companions and most crave the attention of humans.
Pet owners must still ensure that their pets get fresh air and exercise as usual, and avoid using the old “walking the dog” excuse to mingle with other “dog walkers.” Avoiding crowds and following the rules of social distancing doesn’t mean that you cannot take Fido out for a walk, it just means doing so responsibly and not using it as an excuse to gather in a public place with other people. It’s a good idea to keep your pet as far away from others as you are when going on your excursions, and taking the necessary precautions if a stranger bends down to pet your dog. There are still a lot of people who aren’t taking the seriousness of this pandemic seriously so just being out in public can put anyone at risk. We cannot control the actions of others, so we must be prepared for anything. While in most cases, the attention that other dog lovers would give to your pet would be no big deal, today, it could end in sickness or worse. These are simply the times that we live in and we must act accordingly.