The Guide to Owning a Dog During COVID-19: What’s Changed?
It seems like we’ve got a new guide for just about everything in the age of Coronavirus — a guide to sticking to your diet during quarantine, a guide to baking treats and breaking your diet during quarantine, and a guide to coping with sold-out toilet paper during quarantine straight from the (computer-assisted) mouth of a Schnauzer named Pluto.
The last thing we need is a new guide for dog ownership.
… or do we?
While the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t impacted dogs quite as much as it’s impacted those of us who care for them, the changes that the pandemic has introduced into our lives do affect the pooches that we love to love.
After all, dogs are incredible at picking up on body language and can even read your emotional state with one glance at your face.
So in a post-pandemic world where your life has changed, it’s time to take another look at the ways in which we care for our dogs should change, too.
What You Need to Know About Dogs and Contracting COVID-19
First things first, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a small number of pets, including dogs, have been infected with COVID-19.
While it’s of course nearly impossible to track exactly how these pets became infected, it’s assumed that they contracted the virus via human contact. The risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is thought to be low.
So if your dog is exhibiting abnormal and prolonged signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose or eyes; it’s best to have them checked out by your vet — and limit their contact with humans and other animals in the meantime.
But if your pup is in good health — and we hope they are — here’s what you can do to keep them that way!
How to Keep Your Pet from Getting Ill
If you’re not infected with COVID-19, it’s totally fine to interact with your doggo as usual — just follow the same common-sense guidelines most of the world has been practicing since Coronavirus became a threat:
- You can still walk your dog on a leash, just stay at least six feet from other people and pets.
- Try not to allow your pet to interact with anyone (animals or people) from outside your household or “trusted circle” of healthy friends and family.
- Avoid cramped spaces, like busy trails or parks where dogs often run loose.
There are other things you can do to keep your pet healthy; including sticking to their routine as much as possible to avoid stress, providing plenty of exercise and hydration, and feeding them as usual. And as cute as they are begging for some of that bread you can’t seem to stop baking — always resist the urge to overfeed your dog!
It’s also important to keep your dog up to date on their shots so that they don’t come down with an avoidable illness that could weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Just be sure to check with your vet to make sure they’re prioritizing your and your pet’s safety.
Quarantine Pets if You Suspect Sickness
While research on the topic is in its early stages, it appears that infected cats can spread COVID-19 to other cats. Dogs may be able to as well, but so far it seems less likely.
Even with as little as we know about animal-to-animal transmission of Coronavirus, it’s suggested that pets be quarantined from humans and other animals in the household if they’re exhibiting symptoms.
How to Protect Your Pooch If You Come Down With COVID-19
Just like you would with any of your loved ones, it’s best to avoid contact with your pet as much as possible if you’re showing signs of or have been diagnosed with COVID-19!
We recommend taking a few minutes right now to identify a trusted individual — a friend, a family member, or even a well-equipped boarding facility — who is willing to care for your dog for as long as it takes to keep you and them healthy.
Make sure it’s easy for your designated caretaker to jump in at a moment’s notice by having all of your dog’s information in one place: Details on their routine, the names of their favorite food and treats, notes on any medical conditions or medications, their vet’s contact info, and any unique behavior a new person should know about.
If you must continue to be the primary caregiver for your dog even while you’re sick, here are some steps to help keep them in good health:
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds before touching your dog as well as after blowing your nose, touching your face, or coughing or sneezing into your hands.
- Wear a mask as often as possible within six feet of your pet.
- Clean surfaces with which they often come in contact.
- Avoid close contact with your dog. That means you’ll have to lay off of the kisses and naps in bed for a while!
Get Ahead of Potential Shutdowns and Shortages
If you didn’t learn anything from The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 (and 1973, too, apparently) here’s a reminder: Stock up!
While we’re certainly not suggesting you go clean out your local store’s shelves or get in a tussle over a bag of treats, what we are suggesting is that you reasonably build up a month’s supply of doggy essentials in case a shortage or another shutdown keeps you confined inside. Essentials include food, medication, and anything else that’s integral to your dog’s daily routine.
Preventing Separation Anxiety After So Much Time at Home
Veterinarians anticipate an uptick in separation anxiety among dogs once their owners go back to work after months spent mostly at home.
“I am already seeing issues in some of my patients, such as increased barking, not wanting to go in their kennel, pacing, decreased appetite, and potty training issues,” said Dr. Becky Krull, DMV and veterinarian at Green Bay and Allouez Animal Hospitals, Inc.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent and ease any separation anxiety your dog is experiencing:
Normalize Alone Time
One of the best things you can do to get your dog used to being alone again is introducing them to alone time slowly.
Try just getting up and leaving the room you’re dog is laying in, then leave them inside or in the yard while you walk around the block for 10 minutes, and eventually start leaving them in their kennel (or wherever their safe space usually is while you’re away) while you run errands.
This will help your dog understand that your absence is normal and that you’ll always return at the end of the day.
Create a Repeatable Routine
If you know what your days will look like when you start working outside the home, you can start building a routine for your dog around that schedule even before it goes into effect.
For instance, if you know you’ll usually drop in at home during your afternoon break but won’t be home for good until later in the evening, you can get your dog used to lunchtime play sessions and later dinners now. The ultimate goal is to keep your dog’s eating, walking, and playing routine the same to reduce uncertainty and anxiety for them.
Get Ahead of Anxiety with Exercise and Treats
Even with a routine in place, it can help a dog settle down and patiently wait for your return if they’re ready for a nap. So it never hurts to mentally or physically exercise your pooch before leaving them alone.
It can also be effective to give your pup a treat — especially a long-lasting one — at the last moment before leaving to distract them from getting anxious over your departure.
Check In Yourself or Hire a Companion
No matter which separation anxiety-reducing tricks you employ, it’s always ideal for your dog to get some interaction during the day.
If you can’t personally check in for a potty break for more than five hours, hire a dog walker to visit your pooch while you’re away. And if you plan to go the dog walker route, start with them a bit before returning to work to give your dog a chance to get used to them.
Remember, routine is key!
Keep Calm and Dog On
Finally, one of the best things you can do during COVID-19 for both your and your dog’s health and happiness is stay calm.
Dogs are innately attuned to their owner’s feelings, so when you get stressed they get stressed. And stress isn’t good for anyone’s immunity.
When you and your pet are both in good health, try some deep breathing, calm petting, and giving them your undivided love — practices that can promote both their wellbeing and yours.