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Your Pet and COVID - What You Need to Know

When the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 swept into New Zealand recently, you may have anxiously wondered if your pet would be susceptible to the virus. The answer is yes, animals can catch coronavirus and international research shows one in five pets will catch the virus from their owners.

However, the good news is that cats and dogs generally have mild symptoms, if any at all.  

Does your fur baby need a jab?

‘New Zealand is racing to get its human population vaccinated and an animal vaccine is in development overseas, however you don’t need to think about a jab for your fur kid for now.

Pet insurance provider PD Insurance’s chief operating officer, Michelle Le Long, says studies have shown humans can pass the virus to animals, but pets don’t appear to pass it to us.

“The proactive measures New Zealand has taken are valuable for us and for our pets – it means they’re less likely to be infected, which means our pet insurance can go into other crucial areas such as recovery from accidents, illnesses, dental procedures and vet visits.

“But the main thing is, our fur kids just don’t pose a threat to us. In fact, pet love helps us navigate COVID.”

Pets offer comfort during lockdown

PD Insurance’s annual pet parent research showed that pet ownership is overwhelmingly good for mental health – 96% of respondents found that to be the case. This has never been truer than during the COVID pandemic. Asked if their pet had helped them deal with the pandemic, 68% of men and 78% of women answered YES.

Respondents said the top benefits their pooches and moggies brought them during lockdown were distraction from the pandemic negativity, comfort in times of distress, and regular exercise via taking them for walks. Other benefits included pets making the home seem less stifling, making the family feel calmer and reducing the amount of fighting among the kids.

Separation anxiety is a big worry

While lockdown can be a boon for pets who enjoy having their humans at home all day, the downside is loneliness that can arrive as a shock when everyone returns to work and school.

PD Insurance research found 12% of pets and 5% of owners experience separation anxiety as stay-at-home orders lift. “When you consider two in three Kiwi households have a pet,” says Le Long, “separation anxiety is a very real and distressing issue for so many of us.”

Veterinarian Dr Joanne Lonergan, of PD Insurance’s animal shelter partner HUHA, says they saw separation anxiety as a particular problem after New Zealand’s first lockdown.

“Shelters were emptied as people acquired new pets, knowing they had weeks to train them before going back to work, which was great. But the problem was the new puppy became accustomed to having its owner home 24/7, and it was traumatic when their human was suddenly gone all day. We saw a lot of separation anxiety at that time,” she explains.

Symptoms of this in pets can include soiling the home, persistent barking and howling or meowing and scratching, digging holes, general out-of-character destruction, and escaping.

“When going back to work after lockdown, it’s important to help your pet adjust to a new reality,” says Le Long. “Simple tactics include coming and going quietly, leaving them with clothes that smell like you, and slowly increasing the amount of time you spend away from home in the lead-up to a return to work.”

What if you have to go into MIQ?

If the worst happens and you acquire COVID, the last thing you need is to be worrying about your fur family. PD Insurance recommends having an emergency plan in place for your pets, and suggests you talk to your friends, whanau or neighbours to see if they could help.

Be prepared in case no one is allowed to enter your home after you leave. If you have to abruptly enter a managed isolation or quarantine facility, let the medical officer of health know you have animals needing care so they can make an informed decision.

If you need to arrange care in a kennel or cattery, payment is your responsibility. Any handover arrangement should be arranged in advance and carried out using safe practices such as physical distancing and hand washing, using disposable cardboard boxes, and cleaning cages after use.

If friends or whanau cannot care for your pets, then HUHA and similar organisations can help. Professionally run shelters have documented processes around animals coming in from COVID-19 positive households, and they operate under the Code of Welfare for the Temporary Housing of Companion Animals. Visit www.huha.org.nz.

For further information, visit www.pdinsurance.co.nz/blogs/can-animals-get-coronavirus/.

 

Media contact 
Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]