More Human-to-Animal Transmission of Coronavirus Discovered

We’ve already discussed scientific findings that shed light onto whether or not your housepets can catch coronavirus (the chance is infinitesimally tiny and was never really confirmed), but what about other animals? It turns out that humans who have caught coronavirus can spread the disease to minks, which are also susceptible to COVID-19. And you might be surprised at the damage to mink populations!

Minks are animals — and that means there are no social distancing regulations or government-imposed restrictions for them to follow when interacting with one another.

That’s how 10,000 minks in Utah died of COVID-19 in Utah according to an NBC News report. The real damage to mink populations, though, was done when government officials decided it was better to be safe rather than sorry — and chose to cull over one million of the animals to guarantee that they would not be a threat to humans.

While this response might seem like overkill, it’s important to remember that the single greatest chance for a virus to mutate is during species to species transmission. And what might not be deadly to one animal could be deadly to another.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is very little risk of catching the virus from an animal. Of course, that won’t comfort people who remember the theories about how the virus propelled into the spotlight into the first place.

COVID-19 attacks and damages the lungs and other organs of minks in much the same way as it does in humans. More information is still needed to understand the long-term effects of the disease that has already killed over 200,000 Americans. There are a number of reports of COVID-19 survivors returning to the hospital with lung and heart damage, among other serious complications. Protect yourself and others by wearing a mask!

Pet Grooming Businesses Going Out of Business Because of COVID-19

Prior to 2020, pet businesses were booming — grooming services, adoptive services, dog walking, petsitting, pet shampoo. You name it and it was selling. But that all changed earlier this year when COVID-19 forced local and state governments to shut down much of the economy. Many of the jobs that kept those businesses afloat went out the window, and the CARES Act didn’t provide nearly enough aid to mend the damage. 

The end result? Thousands of pet care businesses have gone belly up. This is especially true in cities like New York, where coronavirus hit hardest. 

Business bankruptcy lawyer Ryan Reinert said, “By the end of the year, you’re going to start seeing more filings of foreclosure cases, and then those go through litigation, and then you end up with bankruptcy as an option. One of the first things that you want to have a very good feel for is: What’s your goal? Is it a normal Chapter 11 case for reorganization, or is it filed under the Small Business Reorganization Act? Do you intend to sell the company?”

Pet business owners will have to make all of these decisions quickly — decisions that are very different from those made on an individual or family basis — to reduce the debt impact.

“If it’s a sale case,” Reinert added, “you want to ensure that the party that’s coming in to acquire your lease can continue to perform and has the same type of financial basis or better as the debtor had at the time that you entered into the case. Often, you end up with a long-term lease as part of that. And that’s a very successful result.”

The good news is this: not all pet businesses have to deal with lease payments unrelated to the home, because that’s where they usually work from. 

Also, the market was already changing before coronavirus struck. For example, a whopping 22 percent of the pet products market was dominated by the online marketplace. Coronavirus helped propel companies who were already selling online as a primary mode of business to even greater heights. Those who failed to adapt in time were the ones feeling financial pains the most, and certainly they are the ones most likely to go out of business.

Still, there are other concerns. Because the average consumer has less money to spend, a smaller slice of the pie goes to Fido. Pet product sales were initially forecasted at 5 percent growth for 2020, but those forecasts were then revised to show no growth at all. Supplies diminished by nearly a quarter, and service requests were slashed by about a half. That’s a huge problem for small business owners who relied on profits to put food on the table for their families.

Now that President Trump is being wishy washy about new coronavirus relief aid (and also because Congress might not have come to an agreement anyway), it’s anyone’s guess whether or not help will come soon enough to help businesses just hanging on for dear life.

CDC Recommendations: If You Have Pets During Coronavirus Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established best practices for households with pets. While there is only a small chance of human-to-pet transmission, these practices should still be followed if you would like to keep your cat or dog safe and healthy!

This is what you should do if you have pets and worry about transmitting coronavirus:

  • Do not allow people from outside the household to interact with your pet.
  • Do not allow cats outside during the outbreak.
  • Do not allow dogs to wander outside when not on a leash.
  • Do not use face coverings on your pets; these can affect respiratory response and actually harm your animals!
  • Avoid large gatherings and public areas.
  • When sick, do not care for your pet; ask someone else in the household who is not yet sick. When there is no other option but to care for your pet on your own, use a face covering for yourself. Wash hands with warm water and soap both before and after interacting with your animal.
  • Avoid close contact with your pet. Avoid being licked or cuddling.
  • Be sure to clean up pet waste quickly.
  • Contact your local veterinary clinic if you have additional questions about your pet’s health!

There might be a circumstance in which both you and your pet become sick at the same time. It’s important to know if you have the coronavirus infection/COVID-19. If you do, then avoid traveling to the veterinary clinic! You will only be spreading the virus and putting other pets and pet owners at risk.

Instead, call the clinic to ask about help. They will have their own best practices put into place and will know exactly how to help most efficiently. Some will want to video conference with you.

For additional information, check the CDC website which will be updated routinely as new information is learned: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/pets.html

Pet Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Dies After Quarantine

Authorities have assured pet owners that there is little evidence humans or pets can transmit the novel coronavirus to one another. Minute traces of coronavirus have been found after testing several Hong Kong pets, but scientists believe these traces did not represent infection. Instead, they were just the result of a virus floating around because the owner was infected. A number of blood samples were tested; each was returned from the lab with a negative result.

Regardless, the owner’s dog was placed in quarantine for two weeks before being returned. Shortly thereafter, the dog passed away. This has kick-started a number of conspiracy theories about pet to human or human to pet transmission, but none of them hold much weight. Sadly but understandably, the owner did not want her dog to be opened up in a lab post-mortem. No autopsy is scheduled.

The AFCD explained that the original “negative result indicates that there is not a strong immune response and that there are not measurable amounts of antibodies in the blood at this stage.”

Coronaviruses can mutate very easily, but the virus present in both pet and pet owner were genetically similar. The AFCD said, “The sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog.”

Many pet health organizations stress that the dog’s health was likely impacted only after being taken from its owner, and that the dog’s death should not represent cause for concern. The World Health Organization has also said that there is scant evidence that cats or dogs can help spread the virus.

The AFCD said, “This is, however, a rapidly evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available. [But] … there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) said that it would urge members to thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water rather than panic about the potential of transmission. 

The Maine-based Idexx Laboratories has already tested and evaluated the blood results of thousands of cats and dogs and found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes the disease COVID-19.

Idexx spokespersons said, “The new test results align with the current expert understanding that the virus is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus.”

Can My Pet Come Down With Coronavirus?

Viruses that can be transmitted from human to animal — and potentially back again — are some of the most dangerous on record. The Spanish flu of 1918 was a worldwide pandemic that infected half a billion people and killed tens of millions. This was a “swine flu” that was transmitted from pigs to humans. You may have also heard of the “bird flu.” When viruses go back and forth between human and animal hosts, they have time to mutate. 

Those mutations can make them much more dangerous.

And now we know that Fido can come down with coronavirus too! One Hong Kong patient discovered that their pet dog had come down with the virus. The pet dog was quarantined for two weeks, which is on par with the traditional human standard of care. Even so, officials warned against panic, saying that the tests had resulted in a “weak positive.” That means they cannot be certain that the virus can be transmitted from human to pet.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that we don’t know whether or not pets can spread coronavirus because no evidence exists. The dog also didn’t show any symptoms. More tests will be conducted to see if the dog is actually infected or if he was just the victim of unfortunate environmental contamination. 

There have been around 90,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, most of which are in China’s Hubei Province. Officials have warned that the window for controlling the spread of the virus is rapidly closing — if not already shut. Around 3,000 people have succumbed to the virus so far. Many more deaths are expected as the virus makes its way to other countries around the world.

Trump has been thoroughly criticized for appointing Vice President Pence to lead the team organizing the United States response to the virus. Pence was responsible for causing an outbreak of HIV back home. Plus, Trump dismantled the team already put into place by the Obama administration.

There are worries that the actual number of cases of coronavirus might be much, much higher since most people won’t experience terrible symptoms. If the only people who seek treatment are those experiencing extreme symptoms, then we’ve already lost the ability to combat the spread of the disease.

More importantly, we also know that people can be reinfected with coronavirus — and that the virus might hit harder the second time around because of certain treatments that reduce a person’s immune response and put strain on the heart muscles. Governments around the world are beginning to restrict travel and close down operations in public places.

Litigation Against Pet Food Manufacturers Becoming More Common

We love our pets. That means we care about their health and well-being. Making sure they get enough exercise and eat the right kind of food is just part of the job. But taking care of them is more difficult than ever before because it is so much harder to trust those manufacturers who make their food. That’s why Blue Buffalo is under suit for a massive $5 million. Shannon Walton argues that Blue Buffalo’s recipes led her beloved dog Tucker to become diabetic.

If Walton has her way, others who have had similar pet issues will step forward and the judge overseeing the lawsuit will grant it class-action status.

The lawsuit is simple: It comes down to false advertising. Blue Buffalo says its formula is best becomes it was “inspired” by ancient wolf diets. But Walton says that the formula is actually chock full of carbs that no animal would have chowed down on when hunting. But those same words could create a problem for the case in court. The words “inspired by” aren’t meant to be taken literally, and that’s what the company will almost certainly argue.

There is an ingredient label, after all. And pet owners should take responsibility for knowing what their pets need and what they do not. 

Another issue the suit might run into is the presence of undefined variables. Bad food is one thing, but bad eating habits are another. Dark chocolate, a bowl of cereal, and even a glass of wine can all have health benefits when consumed in small amounts, but they become much more detrimental to health the more you heap on the plate. So how much was Tucker eating? That matters a lot more than the ingredients. 

Blue Buffalo may or may not need to change their manufacturing processes to make food healthier for pets. But the pet owners have a responsibility to know what they’re putting into the food dish, too.

So what do dogs need to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Like most pet diets, it’s best to provide your pup with a combination of wet and dry food. This ensures that Sparky gets the right combination of nutrients instead of all empty calories. We usually think of dogs as carnivores, but that’s not true. Technically, they derive nutrition from plenty of other sources. They’re omnivores! Feeding them a combination of meat, fruits, veggies, and grains is the best way to keep them completely healthy.

For a better idea of how to feed your animals, try the Merck Veterinary Manual. It recommends serving sizes by dog weight and age, and will also provide plenty of examples of the best foods to put in their dish. No matter what you choose to feed your dog, make sure to read the ingredient label first!

Is It Normal To Have Conversations With Your Pet?

We all have that one friend who bizarrely — and publicly — holds a conversation with their cat or dog. Sometimes, even more bizarrely, that same friend will actually supply a response, because of course the pet cannot speak. Okay, it’s not that bizarre. We all do this ourselves, but most of us are smart enough to refrain from doing it within the public’s prying eye. It turns out that this type of behavior is completely normal.

But why do we do it?

Nevin-Giannini is a 31-year-old vocational trainer who owns a dog named Maverick. And he does exactly what so many of us do: He speaks both to, and as, his pet.

Giannini said, “I find that my dog’s personality, or the voice I give my dog, is somewhat sarcastic or critical, particularly of me or my girlfriend. His most common phrase is ‘You son of a bitch.’”

We don’t exactly have a lot of scientific data to help explain why people choose to perform as their pets, but at least one study was conducted in 2004 by a Georgetown University linguist, Deborah Tannen. She used family members, so it was hardly an impartial study. But she said that people seemed to imitate a pet for specific reasons, including: “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

She continued: “People make use of whatever’s in the environment to communicate with each other. The fascinating thing to me is how people find it easier to say things to each other if they don’t say it directly, but they say it in the voice of the dog. It introduces humor, and it becomes indirect. The dog’s criticizing you—not me.

In other words, we occasionally use the pretend voice of a dog or cat to say the things we’re not comfortable saying in our own skins. Is this a problem? Not really, according to Tannen, because any effective communication between friends and loved ones is good communication. This is especially true because pet owners often see their dogs and cats as members of the family.

But unsurprisingly, it doesn’t just stop with pets. People also make up voices and personalities for babies and stuffed animals, too, and mostly for the same reasons.

Tannen says, “the kinds of motives and feelings you might impose on the baby would be closer to what the baby might have, because it’s a person.”

What’s more noteworthy is that a lot of us perform these functions so habitually that, after a while, we don’t even notice!

Why Puppies Do Not Make Good Christmas Gifts

For those of us who grew up watching Disney, seeing Lady from Lady & The Tramp revealed as a Christmas present has seeped into our brains and normalized the idea of giving a puppy as a Christmas.

As cute as this may be, the practicality behind giving it as a Christmas gift is a bad idea, for several reasons.

First and foremost, puppies need to be trained. The wintertime is not the best time to be training your pet to go to the bathroom outside. Besides the fact that it is cold, precipitation such as snow, sleet, and hail can be dangerous not only for your new pup but also for you! If you plan on taking your dog outside to do it’s business, to keep them warm, you might need to put on a sweater. If there is snow on the ground, the dog will bring in with water leading to wetness everywhere. If your dog is too cold and/or scared to go out, this might lead to many accidents throughout the house. And since Christmas time is a busy year, a puppy needs to be interacted with. No leaving for New Year’s Eve!

Secondly, as adorable as the scene is in Lady and the Tramp putting a puppy in a tiny box only to be greeted to absolute chaos is traumatic for the animal! Within the first 12 weeks of the puppy’s life is when its brain develops its “fear or avoidance” reception. By overwhelming your puppy at Christmas time you are basically giving tiny Fido Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Your actions as it grows up can have damaging effects when he is an adult dog.

Thirdly, as much as your children want a dog, dog’s are a huge responsibility and cost a LOT of money. Expenses include and are certainly not limited to:

  • annual vet visits
  • required vaccinations
  • medications
  • normal check-ups
  • dental cleanings
  • medical care and surgeries as needed
  • good food
  • treats
  • toys
  • beds and crates
  • grooming tools
  • accessories like leashes, collars
  • poop bags
  • clothes
  • travel crates
  • dog walkers
  • doggy daycare, and boarding facilities or pet sitters for the times you travel without your pet

Unlike stuffed animals, puppies need constant attention and to be played with. They need to learn commands and have some socialization. They also will affect your lifestyle tremendously which is why a lot of Christmas gift puppies end up in shelters after people realize they don’t want the responsibility. And although these puppies have the chance of being adopted – 90% of shelter animals are euthanized!

Dog ownership is not the same thing as a toy. If you are serious about owning a puppy then you can wait until after Christmas and go to the shelters to adopt a puppy.

When Adopting A Pet, Be Wary Of Animal To Human Disease Transmission

In Norman, Oklahoma, veterinarians want you to know about the dangers of diseases that can affect humans and pets, or spread from one to the other. Sara Rowland works at a Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Norman. She recently encountered a newborn puppy suffering from leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can affect pets and pet owners.

Leptospirosis can result in a large number of symptoms, making it potentially difficult to diagnose. Some of those who are infected might present with no symptoms at all. But without immediate medical treatment, the bacterial disease can result in damage to the kidneys and liver, meningitis, or respiratory distress. Those who suffer in silence could face an early death.

Rowland explained the circumstances that led to her own diagnosis of the poor puppy: “In this instance, the pet was not eating well, vomiting and had a yellow tint that you could tell the liver was affected. It causes failure, definitely kidney and liver failure. The big thing I think with this particular you can vaccinate to prevent this disease.”

And perhaps you should. Pets can infect other pets, their owners, or vice versa.

Believe it or not, the anti-vaxxer conspiracy campaign is affecting pets and their owners as well. Rowland said, “For some reason, there’s a myth out there that this vaccine is really likely to cause reactions.”

But that’s not the case.

The bacterial disease is transferred through contact with an infected animal’s (or human’s) bodily fluids. Rodents and livestock can spread the disease as well as dogs. 

Those who contract the disease might present with fever, achy muscles, headache, vomiting, red or itchy eyes, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rash, coughing, or jaundice.

And man-made climate change might increase the number of those who contract leptospirosis in the future. Outbreaks often occur directly after flooding or heavy rain. Stagnant pools are often contaminated after these events, and anyone who wades through them is put at risk. 

In these circumstances, take care not to drink from water sources that may have been contaminated during a rare weather event. Do not bathe in floodwater. Do not eat food if you are uncertain where it has been. Anything you drink should be treated beforehand. Be sure to take proper care of any open wounds, like cuts or abrasions. When venturing outside after flooding, wear waterproof boots and clothing. Keep all trash properly stored, and lock trash cans to avoid infestation or hungry critters coming around for food.

The disease is normally treated using antibiotics.

New Survey Finds Pets Almost As Possible As Biological Children

You know that old saying that being a parent is the best job ever? How about the common soundbyte that no matter how many children a parent might have, they can never be a favorite? One might think these (obviously skewed) beliefs extend to pets, but apparently that is not the case. A recent survey from I and Love discovered that more than a third of adults who have both pets and children actually prefer the pets to their own kids.

Wow.

2,000 pet owners took part in the survey, which also found that 78 percent of respondents said the pet is a member of the family. 67 percent openly admitted that their best friend was the pet. Interestingly, when asked why the pet is better than flesh and blood family, over half of pet owners said their pets are able to better understand their needs. Humans’ ability to listen to their best friends or significant others came in a distant second.

Of course the results of the poll should be taken with a grain of salt: more outrageous responses showed that nearly half of pet owners throw them birthday parties and a nearly equal number routinely spend less cash on groceries so that their pets can eat better. We’re not sure about those answers!

A different — and more serious — survey was conducted to determine pet owners’ thoughts on food safety. It turns out that a high number of people feed their pets raw food, including meat, that could hold dangerous bacteria. According to the safe study, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that human infections rarely occur as the result of a pet’s food, raw or not.

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. A recent outbreak of Salmonella poisoning spread through 35 states from pig ear treats that pet owners feed their dogs. 143 confirmed human infections were documented, but it’s also possible for pets to become sick as well. 

About 99.6 percent of households found no reason to report infections based on their pet’s raw food. That doesn’t necessarily mean that none existed — it just means that pet owners didn’t make the connection.

Researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine said, “It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in households with more than 50 percent of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections.”