Doctors say pets should also practice social distancing to prevent spread of COVID-19

Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 07:01:08-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Now that people are at home more, you’re probably spending a lot of time with your pets.

Petting and playing around is okay if you’re feeling like yourself, but if you feel like you could have coronavirus symptoms, veterinarians say stay away.

“Maybe finding someone else to take care of the pets. If they have to be around their pets, [it's] probably best they do the same thing they would have to do if they had to be around a person,” said Dr. Peter Gerlach.

Gerlach is a doctor at the Dog & Cat Hospital in Norfolk. He says it’s important to practice good hygiene around your pets if you think you are sick.

“Probably avoid holding them kissing them or sharing any type of food with them,” he adds.

He says there are still so many unanswered questions about COVID-19.

“There is still so much unknown about how this virus works. It seems like every few days they find out something new.”

Dr. Gerlach says it is possible to pass a virus to your furry friends.

“The term is called 'zoonotic,' where a person can pass a disease or a pet can pass a disease to a person.”

But he believes it’s unlikely to transfer COVID-19 to one of your pets.

“Cats and dogs can have an intestinal coronavirus that causes more diarrhea,” Dr. Gerlach said.

He says social distancing doesn’t just apply to humans.

“If you see somebody walking down the street with their dog, just walk to the other side of the street or stay at least six feet away,” said Dr. Gerlach.

A tiger, Nadia, at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. Reports say the cat contracted the virus from a zookeeper. News 3 reached out to the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk to see how they are protecting employees and animals.

In a statement from the zoo, they said, “Our animal care and vet staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, when they need to work within close proximity to each other for animal needs.”

Dr. Gerlach says don’t fret if your pet does start showing symptoms similar to the coronavirus.

“If your pet is exhibiting any upper respiratory signs, again - don’t panic. It’s probably some type of other upper respiratory virus that they typically can get that is probably not contagious.”

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