Prairie Post (East Edition)

Ef­fects of COVID-19 on an­i­mals for pro­duc­ers and agribusi­ness

- By Dr. Wendy Wilkins Dis­ease Surveil­lance Vet­eri­nar­ian - Man­ager Sask. Agric. Health · Hobbies · Lifestyle · Pets · Pet Health

Ex­pe­ri­ences and re­search over the last sev­eral months have iden­ti­fied some an­i­mal species with vary­ing sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to in­fec­tion with COVID-19. Mustelids, such as mink, ap­pear most sus­cep­ti­ble and in­fec­tion can re­sult in se­vere clin­i­cal symp­toms and death, as ev­i­denced by cur­rent out­breaks on mink farms in a num­ber of coun­tries in­clud­ing Canada The mink out­breaks have re­sulted in in­fec­tion of at least two peo­ple, which is the only doc­u­mented ev­i­dence of an­i­mal-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion of the virus. Fe­lines, such as house cats and tigers, are also sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tion; most seem to be asymp­to­matic although cases of com­par­a­tively mild clin­i­cal symp­toms have been iden­ti­fied. The virus will trans­mit among fe­line pop­u­la­tions but is not known to spread from cats to hu­mans. In­fec­tion in dogs has been doc­u­mented less fre­quently, with con­fir­ma­tion of clin­i­cal dis­ease in only one case to date and no ev­i­dence of spread be­tween an­i­mals.

It is con­sid­ered very un­likely that an an­i­mal would be a source of in­fec­tion for hu­mans. To date, all re­ports of an­i­mals be­com­ing in­fected with SARS-CoV-2 are be­lieved to be cases of hu­man-to-an­i­mal trans­mis­sion, usu­ally from an in­fected owner to their pet dog or cat. If any per­son has COVID-19 symp­toms or is self-iso­lat­ing due to con­tact with a COVID-19 case, they should fol­low sim­i­lar rec­om­men­da­tions around their an­i­mals, as they would around peo­ple in th­ese cir­cum­stances:

• Avoid close con­tact (pet­ting, snug­gling, be­ing kissed or licked, shar­ing food) with their an­i­mals dur­ing their ill­ness.

• Prac­tise good hand­wash­ing and avoid cough­ing and sneez­ing on an­i­mals.

• If pos­si­ble, have an­other mem­ber of their house­hold care for their an­i­mals.

• If this is not pos­si­ble, they should al­ways wash their hands be­fore and af­ter touch­ing their an­i­mals, their food and sup­plies.

• Re­strict their an­i­mal's con­tact with other peo­ple and an­i­mals out­side the house­hold un­til their ill­ness is re­solved or they are no longer re­quired by pub­lic health to self-iso­late (ap­prox­i­mately 14 days).

• Cats should re­main in­doors at all times.

• Dogs should be kept on a leash or within a pri­vate fenced area when taken out­side for elim­i­na­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, and kept away from other an­i­mals and peo­ple.

An ad­di­tional risk to an­i­mals is what will hap­pen to them if their own­ers be­come ill and are un­able to take care of them. You can help re­duce th­ese con­cerns by plan­ning for your pet's care in ad­vance. This in­cludes iden­ti­fy­ing a fam­ily mem­ber or friend who will care for your an­i­mals if you be­come ill or are hos­pi­tal­ized. An­i­mal own­ers should also keep crates, food, and ex­tra sup­plies on hand in case you are re­quired to stay home for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. As al­ways, help pro­tect your an­i­mals by mak­ing sure all their vac­ci­na­tions are up to date and that pets have a col­lar and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tag. This will help en­sure your pet is re­turned home safely, should it need to be moved from your home be­cause you are un­able to care for it your­self.

Live­stock and poul­try pro­duc­ers have sim­i­lar con­cerns about car­ing for their an­i­mals if they or their staff be­come ill. Pro­duc­ers should be hav­ing dis­cus­sions with their fam­i­lies and em­ploy­ees about who can help care for the an­i­mals should some­one be­come ill. Pro­duc­ers should also ar­range al­ter­na­tives for an­i­mal care when em­ploy­ees are sick or re­quired to self-iso­late for a pe­riod of time. Plan­ning should in­clude iden­ti­fy­ing the min­i­mum level of care that is nec­es­sary to main­tain the health and wel­fare of the an­i­mals, and mak­ing ar­range­ments in ad­vance with friends, fam­ily or neigh­bours for get­ting a "help­ing hand" when needed.

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