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Don’t kiss your cat or dog and wash your hands after every pat: Vet’s advice to animal owners amid the Coronavirus pandemic

Australians urged to take common sense approach when it comes to their pets

Sydney vet advised pet owners to wash hands before and after touching animals

Pets should still be treated as member of family, just with added vigilance

University of Sydney’s Dr Anne Fawcett said it was safe to take dog out for walk

Currently there is no research to suggest animals can pass COVID-19 to humans

By Kylie Stevens and Claudia Poposki For Daily Mail, Australia

Published: 12 April 2020

A vet has urged pet owners to take a ‘common sense approach’ with their four-legged friends during the coronavirus crisis.   

Two research projects are underway at the University of Adelaide to determine whether pets can experience a biological transmission of the virus after several dogs and cats outside of Australia tested positive to COVID-19. 

But pet owners have been reassured the virus is spread via human-to-human transmission, not through companion animals such as dogs or cats.  

Dr Anne Fawcett from the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science urged pet owners to treat their animals the same way they do other humans by practising good hand hygiene. 

‘You should wash your hands before and after touching any animal,’ Dr Fawcett told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘We’re not asking pet owners to do anything different, except to be vigilant.’ 

‘My advice is to use common sense and remain calm. We need to remember that there are very few reports of the virus involving animals.’ 

Dr Fawcett said it is safe to take a dog out for a walk in public, but recommended people to not pat anyone else’s animal unless they washed their hands first and afterwards.

‘Yes, it’s still safe to take the dog for a walk but social distancing should be maintained,’ she said. 

Pet owners are encouraged to treat their four-legged friends like a member of the family.

‘We’ve all been told to isolate in a family bubble. My advice would be to consider your pets as part of that family bubble,’ Dr Fawcett said.

Close contact such as kissing or burying your face in your pet’s fur is not recommended.

If you or another family member have been struck down by the virus, minimal contact with pets is encouraged whenever possible.

‘Have someone look after the animal if you can, just as you would isolate from other family members,’ Dr Fawcett said.

She urged pet owners with concerns to contact to contact their vet, who have been declared an essential service so they can stay open during Coronavirus lockdown.

But vets have changed their way of doing business to avoid the risk of human-to-human transmission.

‘My advice is to ring your vet ahead of time and wait outside while your pet is being examined by the vet,’ she said.

Globally, there have been two cats and two dogs that have tested positive.

‘The small number of animals that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 are not involved in the spread of infection in humans,’ Professor Jacqui Norris from University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science told the Herald Sun.

‘Globally, there have been two cats and two dogs that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. These pets were living with infected human owners and the timing of the positive result demonstrates human-to-animal transfer. Virus culture on these pets was negative, meaning that an active virus was not present.’ 

Sydney GP Dr Ginni Mansberg also addressed concerns when she appeared on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday for a Q&A session about the killer virus.

‘We have got no cases anywhere of humans getting coronavirus from their pets. We have a couple of pets who got it from the owners, but not the other way around,’ Dr Mansberg said.

The RSPCA has reiterated claims that there was no evidence to suggest coronavirus in animals could be passed onto humans.

‘There are many different types of coronavirus. Media articles reporting coronavirus being detected in dogs and cats have generally referred to distinctly different virus types to the one causing the human disease COVID-19,’ its website states.

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