DENVER — COVID-19 has changed the way humans interact and now it's putting limits on our pets.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that pet owners implement the same social distance guidelines humans are following with each other after a small number of cats tested positive for COVID-19.
"We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it originally came from an animal source and is primarily spreading from person-to-person, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations," the CDC webpage reads.
Veterinarian Margot Vahrenwald owns Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center. She said the guidelines are very similar to what she has been preaching her entire career as a vet.
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If you believe you have COVID-19, CDC is recommending the following guidelines:
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
"The likelyhood of you being able to transmit it to your pet is low, but still just be careful," Vahrenwald said. "Don't cross the bridge to paranoia, dogs and cats are not likely to be big players in this pandemic."
Vahrenwald said testing for animals is limited. If you believe your pet has the virus, she recommends calling your veterinarian and not showing up at the clinic.
On Wednesday, dozens of people walked their dogs at Washington Park. Many admitted they didn't know about the new CDC guidelines.
"Honestly, no, I didn't know there were any guidelines for that," Andrew Kaufman said.
Taryn Pachuca said she also wasn't aware of the change in guidelines but was taking precautions like wiping her dog's paws down and asking people not to pet him.
The new information left some pet owners concerned, but Vahrenwald said the virus poses a greater threat to humans.
"There are greater than 65 million dogs and more than 42 million cats in our American household as of 2018; that is a lot of animals, and if they were part of this disease, we would hear a lot more," Vahrenwald said.