Your dog is probably living his best life during social distancing: He is spending more time with his favorite person than ever, hanging out in the background during Zoom meetings, taking regular lunchtime walks around the block, and following you to the refrigerator for afternoon snack breaks. Your dog provides comfort and companionship—during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders and beyond—and your job is to keep him safe.
Here are eight tips to help protect your dog during social distancing.
8 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe When Social Distancing
Skip the dog park
In most cities, dog parks remain open. An afternoon of off-leash play might seem like a great way to get outside and help your pet burn off excess energy (and the calories from those extra mid-day snacks), but Dr. Jim Dobies, veterinarian and president of UrgentVet clinics in Charlotte, North Carolina, suggests steering clear of crowded dog parks and walking your dog on a leash instead. “Dogs do not understand social distancing,” he says.
At the dog park, other dogs will run up to you, or your dog will run up to other dog owners. Though there is very little chance your dog could get COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus—and no evidence that dogs can pass the virus to humans—they could potentially carry the virus on their fur or collars and leashes. Though the risk of transfer in this route appears to be limited, it can’t hurt to take extra safety precautions.
A scuffle between dogs at the park may also force you to come in close contact with other dog owners to break it up, further increasing your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Maintain your distance on walks
Even on leash walks, Dobies suggests staying at least 6 feet from other walkers and not allowing others to pet your dog. “This is a time when you need to maintain social distancing and not let others interact with your pet.”
Keeping your dog on a leash also lessens the risk that he will get loose or injured and require a trip to the vet.
Watch your dog’s diet
You’ve probably heard ongoing jokes about the “COVID-15” weight gain. Your dog isn’t immune to weight gain during the quarantine either.
“When people are home all day with their pets, they are probably snacking and feeding little bits to pets, so we’re seeing more cases of gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea in dogs,” says veterinarian Dr. Scott Neabore, founder of Neabore Veterinary Clinic in Haddonfield, New Jersey. “Stick to your pet’s normal diet during this period and, if you’re going to give your dog treats, try to give him some healthy things like carrot sticks as opposed to junk food.”
Safely store cleaning supplies
You’re probably cleaning and sanitizing your home more often than ever. Make sure chemicals like bleach are stored in places your dog cannot access. In 2019, the ASPCA Poison Control Center received more than 232,000 calls about potential pet poisonings, and household products are among the top 10 toxins pet owners call about (1).
Your hand sanitizer should also be stored safely. “Hand sanitizer is about 90 percent alcohol; it’s very easy for a pet to be poisoned,” Dobies says. “Plain old soap and water are a safer bet for handwashing.”
Watch your dog’s cues
Extra walks are great, especially for active dogs who are used to playing at the dog park or going to doggy daycare while you’re at work—but be careful you’re not giving them too much exercise, Neabore advises.
“You need to keep an eye on your dog’s cues,” he says. “If they start to fall behind, you might need to go on shorter walks; after the walk, look for signs of limping or lameness and check their paws; if there are sores or bleeding, you’ve gone too far.”
Maintain a routine
Your 9-to-5 has turned into 24/7 at home, throwing off your regular schedule—and probably your dog’s schedule too. The problem: “Dogs like routine,” Neabore says.
Do your best to feed and walk your dog at the same time each day. A routine can help them feel less stressed and reduce the likelihood of gastrointestinal distress or behavioral issues like going potty indoors, adds Neabore.
To help minimize your dog’s risk of developing separation anxiety when you return to work, try spending some time apart from each other. For instance, you could work on crate training or encourage your dog to nap in a room away from you.
Your stress level could impact your dog, too. A 2019 study showed that dogs understand your anxieties and they could be “contagious” to your pets, causing symptoms such as panting, pacing, restlessness, and trembling (2). A regular routine can help your dog feel more secure.
Prioritize parasite protection
Spending more time outdoors means a greater chance your dog will be exposed to multiple types of parasites. “Parasites are very common but there are plenty of pet owners who don’t know their dogs have picked up parasites,” Neabore admits.
By administering a year-round, broad-spectrum parasite protection product, such as Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel), you can protect your dog against heartworm disease, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. You should also consider using an effective tick and flea control product year-round, such as Credelio® (lotilaner).
Clean your pet’s belongings
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the coronavirus can survive on materials such as cardboard, plastic, and stainless steel (3). While the risk of your pet testing positive for COVID-19 is low, Dobies suggests washing bowls, collars, leashes, and dog beds, “out of an abundance of caution.”
Enjoy the extra time with your pet but be sure to take precautions to keep them safe during social distancing to ensure their continued happiness and good health.
Credelio kills adult fleas and is indicated for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, treatment and control of tick infestations (lone star tick, American dog tick, black-legged tick, and brown dog tick) for one month in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and 4.4 pounds or greater.
Credelio Important Safety Information
Lotilaner is a member of the isoxazoline class of drugs. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, incoordination, and seizures. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving this class of drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. The safe use of Credelio in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs has not been evaluated. The most frequently reported adverse reactions are weight loss, elevated blood urea nitrogen, increased urination, and diarrhea. For complete safety information, please see Credelio product label or ask your veterinarian.
Interceptor Plus Indications
Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.
Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus and Credelio, for her services in writing this article.
- Announcing the Top 10 Pet Toxins. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/news/announcing-top-10-pet-toxins
- Sundman, A., Van Poucke, E., Svensson Holm, A. et al. Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Sci Rep 9, 7391 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-43851-x
- van Doremalen, N., Bushmaker, T., Morris, D.H. et al. (2020). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine (2020). 10.1056/NEJMc2004973.
Credelio and Interceptor are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.
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