Social Distancing: It's Not Just for Humans Anymore

by Lee Chambers

As we all navigate these days of COVID-19 and the guidelines that are helping to reduce infection, last month the Center for Disease Control (CDC) expanded on their social distancing recommendations to include pets.

Their website features a page with information about pet care regarding COVID-19 that states, “Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”

The organization also offers up the following tips:

  • Don’t let pets interact with people or other animals outside of your household.

  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with others

  • Walk dogs on a leash, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from other people and animals.

  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather

If you have become ill and nobody else in your household can care for your pet, the CDC recommends that you avoid contact with that pet, including petting, snuggling, kissing, hugging, or sharing food or bedding. To further protect them, you should wear a cloth face covering when around them, and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.

Over the past several weeks, a small number of animals have apparently become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after being in close contact with people with the virus. A tiger with a respiratory illness at the Bronx Zoo was the first animal case in the United States, and the situation is being monitored by the CDC in collaboration with human and animal health partners.

The CDC believes that further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19. In the meantime, the best advice remains the same; continue good, healthy hygiene habits. Wash your hands frequently. Be sure to clean your pet's food and water bowls, as well as their bedding, and if you have questions or concerns about their health, consult your veterinarian.

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