COVID-19 Updates: Testing Companion Pets & Pet Fur

The current SARS-COV-2 virus outbreak – which causes the COVID-19 disease in humans – is a rapidly evolving situation. Hemopet will address the media reports here and give you the updates that you need to know regarding your companion pet’s health.

In this update, Hemopet will address the following:

  1. The companion Pomeranian that passed away and the second dog testing as positive for the SARS-COV-2
  2. Thousands of pets tested for SARS-COV-2
  3. Pet fur as a possible contact surface for SARS-COV-2
  4. California-based Hemopet’s status due to Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order
  5. And for your health, have you ever wondered about some of the handwashing recommendations and if you should moisturize?

First and foremost, we implore you to listen to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) regarding companion pets and COVID-19. If you read an article on the internet about companion pets, please research to find out if any of these organizations have released statements. Please be patient, they need to review the developments and should have updates within a few days.

#1. Two Dogs Positive

This is an excerpt from the WSAVA’s press release on March 20, 2020:

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has moved to reassure pet owners following the news that a dog in Hong Kong, quarantined after it had tested positive for SARSCoV-2 has died. The dog had been released after two weeks of quarantine having subsequently tested with the definitive confirmatory test as negative for the virus.

The dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, had shown no clinical signs of COVID-19. However, it did have significant unrelated health problems including cardiac and renal issues and is believed to have passed away from these and old age, possibly exacerbated by the stress of quarantine away from familiar surroundings. The WSAVA confirms that there is no evidence that the dog contracted COVID-19, nor that it could have passed the viral cause to another human or animal.

On March 19, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong announced that a second dog, a German Shepherd, had also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The dog was quarantined after its owner was confirmed with COVID-19. Although the dog has tested positive, it has no clinical signs of disease. Another dog from the same residence has tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2. It also has no relevant clinical signs and has been quarantined. The dogs will continue to be tested for the remainder of the quarantine period.

#2. Thousands of Pets Tested

IDEXX Laboratories has tested thousands of dog and cat specimens for COVID-19. According to the company’s press release on March 13, 2020:

The company has seen no positive results in pets to date of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) respiratory outbreak in humans. IDEXX evaluated thousands of canine and feline specimens during validation of a new veterinary test system for the COVID-19 virus. The specimens used for test development and validation were obtained from specimens submitted to IDEXX Reference Laboratories for rRT-PCR testing.

These new test results align with the current expert understanding that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus. For dogs or cats presenting with respiratory signs, the recommendation is to contact a veterinarian to test for the more common respiratory pathogens.

“Should leading health authorities determine it is clinically relevant to test pets for the COVID-19 virus, IDEXX will be ready to make the IDEXX SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) RealPCR™ Test available,” said Jay Mazelsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of IDEXX Laboratories.

#3. Pet Fur

Pet fur and hair will probably be one of the last surfaces that will be tested to see how long SARS-COV-2 will live on it, now believed to be short-lived. As of now, there is no evidence that companion pets can spread the virus to humans.

The AVMA’s statement was updated on March 15, 2020. The association gave its assessment of pet fur as a possible contact source. We concur with this analysis.

AVMA Statement:

Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, doorknobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.

Nonetheless, organizations do advise you wash your hands before and after handling your companion pet.

#4. Hemopet’s Status

Governor Newsom has issued a stay-at-home order for all California residents. The Executive Order referred to the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency memorandum, which provides guidance regarding the identification of essential critical infrastructure workers.

Hemopet’s services are deemed essential according to the document’s Food and Agriculture section.

Our canine blood bank and diagnostic laboratory will remain open.

Please email Hemopet at info[at]hemopet[dot]org or call us at (714) 891-2022 with any questions.

#5. Handwashing Science and Moisturizing

The Centers for Disease Control and & Prevention (CDC) provides a 5-step guideline to washing our hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cool), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Have you ever wondered about the science behind some of the recommendations? We have and we found out the logic.

Q. Why lather and scrub your hands?

A: Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease and microbes from skin.

Q: I feel like I’m wasting so much water. Can I turn off the faucet while I scrub my hands?

A: Yes; you can! Turning off the faucet after wetting hands saves water, and there are few data to prove whether significant numbers of germs are transferred between hands and the faucet.

Q: What type of soap should I use? I can’t find any antibacterial soap.

A: Remember, SARS-COV-2 is a virus – not a bacterium! If someone comes down with the COVID-19 disease that can then lead to a secondary bacterial infection like pneumonia. Anyway, to answer the question specifically:

To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap. As a result, FDA issued a final rule in September 2016 that 19 ingredients in common “antibacterial” soaps, including triclosan, were no more effective than non-antibacterial soap and water and thus these products are no longer able to be marketed to the general public.

Q: What’s up with the 20 second rule?

A: Evidence suggests that washing hands for about 15-30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods.

Q: Why dry your hands?

A: Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried after washing.

Q: My hands are raw, cracked and bleeding from all of the handwashing. Can I moisturize?

A: The CDC does not address that specifically. However, Time Magazine interviewed a few dermatologists about it. In short: yes; you can!

In fact, Dr. Justin Ko, Chief of Medical Dermatology at Stanford Health Care, says that cracks can actually increase your risk of contracting infections through the fissures and can also lead to other skin conditions.

Dr. Mary Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Health, suggests patting your skin dry to avoid further irritation. Plus, if you decide to apply moisturizer, leave them slightly damp before application. She says to use a fragrance-free and irritant-free hand cream – immediately after patting your hands to a slightly damp level – will help seal in the moisture.

They also recommend using a hand cream instead of a body lotion and gentle soap. You don’t need to use your dish soap.

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