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Do NOT Mask Companion Pets: COVID-19 Updates January 2021

Hemopet is frankly appalled to learn that companies are preying on and heightening anxiety levels surrounding COVID-19 by profiting from selling pet face coverings. One pet mask company reported that sales spiked 500%.

The Bottom Line: Don’t put a mask on your companion cats and dogs to protect them from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advise strongly against it because a mask can distress companion pets and make it difficult for them to breathe. In particular, we are thinking of brachycephalic breeds, pets with tracheal collapse, or any type of respiratory disorder.

Hemopet last reported major COVID-19 updates about pets on July 27, 2020. The story remains the same today: There is no evidence to date of companion cat or dog SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans. If companion pets such as cats do develop symptoms, they are only mild and pets recover.

Hemopet does agree that sometimes the way the CDC phrases precautions can cause misunderstanding and even panic. Let’s take a look at some of the agency’s statements, dissect and explain them in context.

CDC Section #1
What to do if you own pets

“Because there is a risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to animals, CDC recommends that pet owners limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household.

  • Keep cats indoors when possible and do not let them roam freely outside.
  • Walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others.
  • Avoid public places where a large number of people gather.
  • Do not put a mask on pets. Masks could harm your pet.

There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other products, such as hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners. Talk to your veterinarian​ if you have questions about appropriate products for bathing or cleaning your pet​​.”

Hemopet Context: The CDC says nothing about animal-to-human SARS-CoV-2 transmission. It is only about protecting companion pets from this virus or other exposures and keeping them healthy.

CDC Section #2

Stay healthy around animals

“Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”

Hemopet Context: Using the word “low” without qualifiers can raise concerns. The CDC is not ruling out possible transmission in the future due to viral mutations, but the agency does not typically rule out anything for any microbial-based infectious disease. As the AVMA clearly states, “There is little to no evidence that domestic animals are easily infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions and no evidence to date that they transmit the virus to people.”

CDC Section #3

Can I take my dog to daycare or a groomer?

“Do not put masks on pets, and do not take a sick pet to a groomer or boarding facility. Signs of sickness in dogs may include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, discharge from the nose or eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you think your pet is sick, call your veterinarian.”

Hemopet Context: Numerous infectious diseases exist such as the Kennel Cough Complex that can cause similar symptoms. So, we are protecting other companion pets from any respiratory viruses that can be transmitted amongst a particular species.

Also, look at it from this perspective: the CDC guestimates based on planning scenarios that 40% of humans are asymptomatic, but can still be infectious. So, you or someone in your household could be infected and asymptomatic, and could then pass it on to others including a pet groomer or boarding facility.

Testing Pets for SARS-CoV-2

There are advertised SARS-Cov-2 tests for pets, but some are unreliable or not validated. Thus, if your pet’s veterinarian tests your pet for SARS-CoV-2, any positive result will need to be confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). This is simply because researchers and scientists need to track how this coronavirus may spread.

Bottom Line

Please wear a mask, but do not put a mask on your companion pet. We understand that you want to protect them, yourself and others from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. We also appreciate and applaud you for being cautious, and for following reliable documented information sources.

The CDC recognizes that companion pets are vital for human physical and mental health particularly in this necessary time of social distancing and use of personal protective equipment. The agency has laid out pet companion guidelines – none of which has included putting a mask on a pet.

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