With experts advising physical distancing for pets and reports of animals becoming infected with COVID-19, is now a good time to welcome a new pet into the home?
The University of Guelph has an expert who can offer comment.
Prof. Scott Weese, chief of infection control at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College, has been conducting research on the transmission of COVID-19 between humans and animals. While there are many unanswered questions, he said COVID-19 is mostly a human disease, and potential risks to and from pets can be minimized with some basic practices.
Pets at an animal shelter may become ill from infection, but the risks are minimal, he said. In fact, now is an excellent time to adopt a new four-legged friend.
“Many of are working from home and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future, so now is actually a good time to integrate a pet into the home,” he said.
Weese advises potential new pet owners to make sure the shelter they adopt from has limited visitors, that its staff have practised social distancing, and that all staff and animals have been healthy. As well, ensure that those fostering animals have remained symptom-free, which will minimize any risks.
“The odds of a shelter animal being infected, or his fur being contaminated with the virus, aren’t zero but they’re exceptionally low. In fact, going to the store for food is likely a greater health risk,” he said.
As for socializing a new puppy, Weese advises it’s still best to keep your pet away from other animals when outside the home and to avoid letting others pet your animal.
“As we begin to extend our bubbles of contact with healthy family members, there will be more controlled ways to socialize your puppy,” he said.
Weese recently adopted a kitten from a shelter for his family.
“Ultimately, we decided the small risks of infection were outweighed by the larger benefits of having a new pet in our home,” he said.
Weese is available for interviews.
Prof. Scott Weese