COVID 19 and pets

Life is so surreal right now; it seems our entire world turned upside down.

Pets have always been special in our lives, but now they have an even more significant role. 

Coronaviruses are a large family. Some cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats.

Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals and do not infect humans.

These are days of uncertainty. The exact cause of the virus hasn’t been found and there are few different theories and speculations.

Initially, when the outbreak happened, many people were concerned and animal shelters reported an increase in the numbers of pets being surrendered.

However, current research shows that interactions with pets is considered safe according to the current tests results.

“IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., a global leader in veterinary diagnostics and software, today announced that the company has seen no positive results in pets of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) respiratory outbreak in humans.

“IDEXX evaluated thousands of canine and feline specimens during validation of a new veterinary test system for the COVID-19 virus. The specimens used for test development and validation were obtained from specimens submitted to IDEXX Reference Laboratories for PCR testing.

“These new test results align with the current expert understanding that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus.

"For dogs or cats presenting with respiratory signs, the recommendation is to contact a veterinarian to test for more common respiratory pathogens.” (www.Idexx.com)

As the pandemic situation continues to develop and we are facing more and more restrictions, there has been an increase in people’s desire to adopt pets.

Pets can be an amazing aid in this terrible reality we live right now. Being restricted and homebound can elicit and promote depression and other mental-health challenges.

Besides keeping company while the social distancing is required, pets can be very soothing, mood lifting and distracting.

As well, keeping a pet can help one maintain a daily routine in a chaotic, apocalyptic reality that is our lives right now. 

Children's routines have been terribly disturbed and the prolonged confinement to home can be extremely stressful for both children and parents.

Pets can help regulate those anxiety feelings and also help curbing boredom. Having a dog is also another legitimate reason to get out of the house, take a walk and a breath of fresh air.

I am the biggest advocate of adopting animals and incorporating them in our family and lives. However, one must consider a few important factors.

Right now nothing is clear, no one knows what the future holds and how long our lives are going to be impacted by this pandemic, however, eventually this shall pass.

Adopting a pet is not a temporary solution for self-isolation distress, it’s a lifelong commitment.

  • Think about your normal life and routine, are they suitable for raising a pet?
  • What will life with a pet going to look like on the other side of this outbreak?

Think it through carefully as this is a long-term decision that will affect you for years.

Current researches show that raising a pet does not possess any potential harm and there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection.

However, the COVID 19 is a completely new territory in the medical field and the topic is still under massive exploration and research.

Until this disease is completely explored and under control, I urge pet owners to take safety measurements and are extra diligent regarding hygiene when dealing with their pets.

  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
  • Practise good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
  • Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
  • If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
  • Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.

If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.


A vet's view of euthanasia

I’ve been writing my columns for about a decade now, and I believe that this is my most intimate and personal one.

The veterinary profession has a glorious halo to it. Many people dream of becoming a vet when they’re young, but sometimes life gets in the way and takes them to other places. I was one of the lucky ones that got to fulfil his childhood dream.

I went into the process with my eyes open and took into account that the job doesn’t only entail saving animals. I think the part that scares people the most is dealing with euthanizing animal.

I wasn’t any different. You never ever get used to it.

You never ever become numb when you witness people saying their last goodbyes to one of their family members. One of their closest and dearest beings. Their best friends whom they love and were loved by unconditionally.

However, my emotional maturation has transformed this process from a toll, a procedure that I dreaded and tried to avoid at all costs into a deep understanding that it’s a privilege.

Seeing someone that you love suffer is heartbreaking — witnessing your pet sick while knowing that there is nothing you can do. Nothing you can do to help and resolve the problem, take the pain away, get relief.

Seeing your beloved pet fading away and becoming a shadow of its own self is sometimes unbearable.

Hence, I see euthanasia as a privilege:

  • The privilege of being able to humanely stop the pain and suffering of a living animal.
  • The privilege of making sure that the process is done as gently and stress free as possible.
  • The privilege of allowing a pet to go to its final rest in the loving arms of its owners, or a loving staff member if the owner wishes not to be present.

Making the decision to euthanize a pet is the hardest part the owner has to take. And performing the procedure is the hardest part for me.

I am the one who facilitates the process and I need to be able to sleep at night knowing that I did the right thing for my patients.

You see, it’s not easy for me either. I also get attached. Some of the pets I knew from puppyhood, and got to accompany them along their entire life.

There were numerous licking, tail wagging and memories we shared. I also have a relationship with them and it’s truly sad for me. However, I made a pact with myself to always do what’s right for my patients even if it’s hard for me.

As for the owners, I can offer support and re-assurance that they did what is medically right for their beloved pet.

There is no one truth as to what is the right way to go. Essentially, it really depends on one’s beliefs and values.

Not everybody believes in actively making a decision to end someone else’s life. Some people believe in letting nature take its course.

I fully support my clients who take this approach and help them provide the best palliative care to keep their beloved pet as comfortable as can be.

Other people would rather be proactive, paying the price of enduring the pain of letting their pet go in order to shorten any suffering that may be involved.

For me, euthanasia is a hard part of my job. I don’t like it. I mostly feel so lucky and blessed to be able to help and cure animals.

Nevertheless, I recognize that I have to be brave and modest enough to acknowledge when I cannot help any more and it might be best for us to let go and say goodbye.

This is dedicated to Floyd the Mystic and his loving owners, and to all the pets and owners I was honoured to accompany during their hard, farewell moments.

Dogged by ACL tears


The knee joint is composed of three bones — the femur (the long bone extending down from the hip), the tibia (the bone between the knee and ankle), and the patella (the kneecap).

These three bones are held together by elastic bands of tissue called ligaments, which are tough tissues that strongly hold the joint together but allow movement of the joint.

The anterior cruciate ligament is the ligament that is most prone to damages. It can get damaged by twisting of the leg, in a motion that puts  too much tension on the ligament.

The most common reasons for damaging the ligament are slipping on a slippery surface such as ice, or a sudden turn while running and can tear completely or partially.

When the ligament is torn there is excess movement in the knee joint that leads to arthritis (inflammation of the joint). Large breed dogs are more prone to ACL rupture, especially Labradors and Rottweilers, but the condition may occur in any dog.

ACL rupture is manifested by a sudden lameness on one of the back legs. The dog usually will not bear weight on the leg. The lameness might be intermittent and more prominent after physical activity.

It is essential  to treat the condition due to the fact that when the dog favours his injured leg, he bears excess weight on his sound leg, which may lead to the rapture of the ACL in this leg as well.

The diagnosis of ACL rupture is done by an exam conducted by veterinarians that is called Drawer manoeuvre.

The veterinarian will place the dog on his side, hold both of his femur and tibia and check the amount of movement in the joint. In a healthy joint there is minimal movement, excess of movement suggests ACL rupture.

It’s best to do the test when the dog is under deep sedation, to allow relaxation of the muscles and more accurate results. Performing X rays of the joint supports the diagnosis.

The treatment of ACL rupture depends on the severity of the condition. A complete rupture of the ligament requires a corrective surgery. If the rapture is partial, there is a chance that a very restricted activity for 8-12 weeks, along with anti-inflammatory medication may lead to healing of the ligament. 

There are few surgical techniques available to treat torn ACL. One of the newer techniques is called CBLO (CORA Based Leveling Osteotomy) and is proving to be successful.

If the dog is overweight, I recommend a lower-calorie diet. Losing weight takes off the extra load on the joint. Food additives such as glucosamine and chondroitin support the joints and are also recommended.

The prognosis depends on the severity and the duration of the condition. Early intervention can lead to better prognosis but with implementing the CBLO technique, I must say that the results are astonishing even in chronic cases.

Watch for snakes

The hot summery weather is probably one of the most significant factors making the Okanagan a unique and attractive area for residents and tourists.

We are now in the prime of spring and starting to enjoy a variety of the outdoorsy activities.

However, we must remember that humans are not the only beings active in the warm outdoors. Among  other wildlife, one of the animal encounters likely to occur in this season is with snakes.

Snakes are cold-blooded creatures, meaning they hibernate during the winter and are active during spring and summer.

There are few types of snakes in our area, but only one type is venomous — the western rattlesnake.
It is 0.6-1.2 metres long. It can be easily recognized by its two unique physical characteristics:

  • a triangular-shaped head
  • a thick tail ending in a series of rattles.

It is tan to pale green, with a series of dark brown to olive ovals along its back. The distinctive head has two holes below the nostrils connecting to a heat-sensing organ (heat pits), which are used to sense prey. The eyes have a distinct vertical cat’s-eye pupils. 

Rattlesnakes hibernate in communal dens on rocky hillsides. In the spring, they disperse through grasslands and forests to areas with rodent populations.

There is one more type of large snake in our area that can mistakenly be recognized as rattlesnake — the great basin gopher snake, also knows as the bull snake.

The gopher snake, which is not venomous, is the largest snake in our area, reaching up to 1.8 metres. It  is light tan with dark-brown markings. Along the back are dark rectangular patches (opposed to the oval or round markings on a rattlesnake).

The head is small with a dark line running through the eye and over the forehead. The eyes are pale with a dark round pupil. Their tail tapers gradually to a thin point. The gopher snake may bite if feels threatened, but its bite isn’t venomous.  

All snakes, the rattlesnake included, are shy creatures that do everything they can to stay out of the way.

They cannot hear, but are very sensitive to vibrations. If a snake feels something large approaching, such as a human or a dog walking on a trail, its first reaction is to hide.

It may also shake its rattles to warn you of its presence. A rattlesnake bites non-prey only as a last resort when it is close to being stepped on, or when another animal gets too close.

A snake encounter is something that has to stay in pet-owners’ minds. Dogs suffering from snakebites is something that I have to deal with quite often during the warm weather season.

In fact, just in the last week, we saved a dog’s life after it had been bitten by a snake.

Dogs are curious creatures, which makes their encounter with rattlesnakes especially dangerous because they tend to get too close to the snake, and therefore get bitten on their faces or necks.

The reaction to the venom is a severe inflammation and swelling. The swelling of the face and neck can lead to breathing difficulties.  

If you suspect your dog was bitten by a snake, rush it to your vet. We are very lucky to be able to offer anti-venom. On top of anti-venom, other medical means and respiratory support, are being used in order to control the tissue injury caused by the venom.

The prognosis of healing from a snake bite depends of three factors:

  • The location of the bite
  • the concentration of the venom (the earlier the season, the more concentrated the venom is)
  • how long after the bite the medical intervention was given. Immediate intervention and care improve the outcome of the treatment.  

As for prevention, the key is control. When walking your dog, always keep it on a leash.

As for your own yard, the rule of thumb is that if a mouse can invade, so can a snake.

However, unlike mice, which can chew their way in, snakes rely on existing holes and unsealed gaps. Most access points are just above the foundation of the house or in basement window wells. Another common entry point is under basement doors.

Make sure all of these areas are sealed. A special snake proof fence is also available. The best time to snake-proof your house is from late fall to early spring when snakes are in their dens and unlikely to be in the building or under siding.

Unfortunately, despite all safety measurements, dog-snake encounters can still happen and can be fatal to the pet.

I was fortunate to be able to save the dog’s life this past week, thanks to its responsible owner who brought him in right away.

Being mindful and proactive in avoiding a snake encounter is the first step in protecting your beloved pet.

However, if your pet has a sudden severe swelling on its body, don’t hesitate and rush to the vet — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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