Is the COVID Pandemic Affecting Our Dogs?
For dogs, having their beloved family members home all the time is a joy! More time to go for walks together, play, and snuggle. A dog’s dream! But, what happens as restrictions are lifted, and a dog’s hu-family starts to go back to the office to work, back to being in-school, or other activities allowed under the pandemic guidelines?
While under the “new normal,” old ways of working, attending school, and even shopping have changed. Many people are still working remotely from home, while students’ classrooms go between traditional classroom to at home via distance learning and back to the classroom again. Shopping can be done via curbside pickup (my personal preference). And all of this is allowing our dogs to be a bigger part of our daily lives. How wonderful is it to have your canine companion at your side while working from home or shopping for supplies? With the kids home more, it’s been one big play party for our dogs.
But, now as family members are returning to their work places and kids are back in school for the most part, the sudden absence in a dog’s home can certainly create an upset. Dogs can develop separation anxiety, and the once content-at-being-home dog can display behaviors from whining and barking to pacing, and even destructive behaviors such as chewing.
To help your dog adjust to your return “to the real world” after so many months of being home, here are some helpful tips:
Paws Were Made for Walking
Even if you can’t pop home to walk your dog in the middle of the day, be sure to have a nice walk before and after you come home. Allow yourself time so the walk is relaxed, and not rushed. Ply your pup with lots of attention! And maybe you can ask a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor to take your dog out for a midday walk.
Let’s Play Ball!
When you are home, head outside and engage in some fun dog play, such as an energetic game of Fetch! A tired dog is a happy dog!
A good source of mental stimulation for dogs are puzzles! So when you get home from work, break out a puzzle or two. Nothing spells fun like hunting out treats in a maze with a dog’s human! My FiveSibes have always been a huge fan of puzzles and the yummy treats hidden inside.
Just a Little Shutterbug
If you are working or studying from home, what a great time to take some photos of your dog doing things s/he loves to do—running through that sprinkler, rolling on the grass, giving you smooches, and catching that Frisbee! Today’s moments become tomorrow’s memories!
What’s That Song?
Music can be a great friend to your dog who suddenly finds himself alone. Make a dog-friendly playlist (classical music tops the list in calming shelter dogs) that you can set up through your smart TV, or even set a music channel on the radio or television to fill the house with friendly, soothing sounds. (My Huskies enjoy the weather channel as it has it all—talking and music)!
Keep 'Em Calm
If it seems your dog is not happy with the sudden change, check with your veterinarian about calming aids. There are some great pheromone sprays and plug-ins, as well as natural calming products ranging from a fitted shirt to an herbal oral spray, CBD or full-spectrum hemp-infused treats, oils, and capsules, and even some diffused essential oils (note: always check with vet as some oils can be a trigger for a dog with seizures). If nothing works, your vet can also recommend a prescription anti-anxiety medication.
We here at FiveSibes used Treatibles to help with Wolf's anxiety. (Affiliate Notice: Because I saw such positive results, I became a Treatibles affiliate, therefore, if you purchase it using our code, I will receive a small compensation *at no extra cost to you* when you use our code FIVESIBES10 for a 10% discount off your purchase. (The coupon is "evergreen," meaning you can use this code indefinitely on all subsequent orders).
Naturally, our dogs won’t be wearing masks, but these days it is a good practice to limit human-dog contact with others who do not reside in your home. Instead, take your dog outside to meet folks while #socialdistancing. Just nicely request others to not kiss your dog, as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that, “We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.”
“More studies are needed
to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19,”
states the CDC.
If you need to self-quarantine, use common sense when caring for your dog by keeping a distance, no kisses, and always wash your hands, especially before and after handling your dog’s food and items! Not sure for how long to wash your hands? According to the CDC, "Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the 'Happy Birthday' song from beginning to end twice."
No soap available? "You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that
contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains
at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label," states the CDC.
- “The risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people is low.
- The virus can spread from people to animals during close contact.
- More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
- People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.”
In 2020, a report of a 7-year-old German Shepherd named “Buddy” from Staten Island, NY who, according to National Geographic, “became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” has passed away. “Even though the German shepherd likely had cancer, his health records show how little we know about animals and the coronavirus.”
According the the American Kennel Club (AKC), “We have known for decades that dogs can contract coronaviruses, most commonly the canine respiratory coronavirus (not COVID-19). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is not believed to be a health threat to dogs.”
In July 2021, Reuters reported that according to a Dutch study from Amsterdam, the following statistics were revealed:
"About one out of five pets will catch the disease from their owners," said Dr Els Broens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, although there are no known cases of the disease spreading from pets to humans. Luckily, the animals do not get very ill from it."
The report goes on to state, “In Broens' study, presented (at that time) at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households were tested in homes where humans were known to have had a coronavirus infection. About 17% of the animals, 31 cats and 23 dogs, had antibodies for COVID-19, suggesting they had been infected. In addition, six cats and seven dogs, or 4.2% of the animals, had an active infection as shown by a PCR test. Later testing showed those animals recovered quickly and did not pass it on to other pets in the same household, Broens said.”
“Pets infected with this virus may or may not get sick. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets is extremely rare,” states the CDC.
What Does This All Mean?
It's confusing to say the least. As things develop and guidelines change, first, keep calm. Pets can pick up on our energy and moods. Keep in mind that new info and studies are coming out all the time. It’s best to use common sense when handling your pets if you have COVID-19.
So, until more is known, and how we can manage it and all of its changing variants, always err on the side of caution for both you and your dog. Together, we can do this, and #StaySafe.
Keep up on the latest news from Center for Disease Control (CDC), the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration), and the American Kennel Club (AKC). If in doubt, or if you are concerned your pet has COVID-19, *CALL your vet for a phone consultation and follow instructions from there.*
*A version of this story first appeared in 4Knines in August 2020, and has been updated with new info January 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (That's me!)
Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning photojournalist and author of EPIC Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy; the FiveSibes™ Tales children’s books: What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy and Getting Healthy With Harley: Learning About Health & Fitness; and Buddy, the Christmas Husky~Based On A True Holiday Miracle books (ArcticHouse Publishing), as well as the FiveSibes.com, an online encyclopedia for the Siberian Husky breed and Canine Epilepsy information, as well as her international award-winning FiveSibes blog, based on the lives of her five Siberian Huskies. Her work has also appeared in AmericanPet Magazine, Ruff Drafts, The Sled Dogger, and Hudson Valley Paw Print Magazine. Dorothy is the writer and host of her award-winning "The Sibe Vibe” Dog Works Radio show.Dorothy is an 11-time Dog Writers of America Association “Excellence” nominee, winning the prestigious Maxwell Medallion in 2019, 2017, and 2016 for her fiction, writing, photography & design. She was also awarded The Grey Muzzle Award by The Grey Muzzle Organization for "Excellence in writing/media of the plight of at-risk senior dogs" on her show “The Sibe Vibe” broadcasted on Dog Works Radio and iTunes. Her book EPIC Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy received the 2018 Independent Press Award for “Excellence” in the Reference Book category and 2017 NYC Big Book Award for “Excellence” in the Animal/Pet book category.