Bridging the gap of pet parenting during a pandemic
-By Dr Ankur Narad
Everyone is trying to handle the current COVID-19 situation in the best possible way. But if you’re a pet parent, it might be slightly challenging for you. In this, Dr Ankur Narad tells you to outshine and prove how good you’re at responsible pet parenting.
Under the current COVID-19 times how are you managing at your clinic? Limiting entry of germs in the facility—it means cancellation of all elective or non-essential surgeries and procedures including dental cleaning, using telemedicine when possible, limited points of entry and managing visitors, thermal screening of all visitors and encouraged respiratory hygiene by facemask. We made separate, well-ventilated triage areas, spatial separation greater than three feet for people in the waiting area and educate staff and visitors by putting up informative posters and signs. Only pets are allowed to enter the facility using the sterile leash provided at the clinic. Pet parents are requested to sit in the waiting area. There is more emphasis on personal hygiene and washing hands. Barriers are installed to limit contact with patients at triage, limited the number of staff to one and provide them sterile masks, gloves and gowns.
What are the main concerns of the pet parent during this time?
Fearing the safety of the family members, several pet parents especially who have cats, are considering giving up their four-legged furry companions especially after the tiger at the Bronx zoo in the US contracted COVID-19. I received 4-5 calls daily from pet parents concerning the fear of transmission of coronavirus from pets to human. Coronaviruses are common in several species of domestic and wild animals, including cattle, horses, dogs, cats, ferrets, camels and bats, etc. The strain is more specific to species, but they need a melting pot to jump into another species and it will take time for propagation. According to organisations such as AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the World Organization for Animal Health, at this point, we do not have evidence that animals such as dogs and cats become ill from this virus. It's important to remember that viruses can sometimes infect a species but not cause illness in that species, nor become transmissible to others.
What are the common problems with pets that you have noticed over the last three months?
Encopresis— this is a primary issue for urban pets who are quarantined with their pet parents and don’t go outside to relieve themselves. This is particularly a major concern for pets who live in apartments and who, under normal circumstances, are used to going for walks multiple times a day, as opposed to pets who have access to private yards.
Although you might not be able to keep your pet as physically active while under quarantine, you can still keep them mentally engaged. Puzzles, toys, and treat dispensers are a great way to keep your pet happy and engaged indoors. Dementia—like people across the world whose lives have suddenly been turned upside down by COVID-19, dogs who are stuck in quarantine may also experience stress and depression.
We might see an uptick in depressive behavior like trouble sleeping, losing their appetite, not wanting to play or seeming listless. Some dogs might also become more destructive and anxious, exhibiting behaviors like increased reactivity, increased barking, or difficulty settling. Increasing mental engagement and structured playing inside the house could help. Most of the time, dogs want something to do, and when that’s taken away they struggle. The same goes for their human companions as well. So keep yourself and your pet busy to keep yourself sane!
What differentiates your clinic from others?
The management of RGCN Clinic decided that we’ll treat all animals including livestock and companion animals with no consultation fee for this whole crisis and we’re planning to continue this for the rest of the year as well. We have kept food bags for free and distributed them to animal healthcare workers who are doing the noble cause of feeding the stray animals. We’ve put up a sign in front of our clinic with a message–‘LIVE AND LET LIVE AND GO CORONA’, to spread awareness.
What are the challenges you are facing in the current situation?
Sometimes it’s very difficult to make pet parents understands about the myths about the transmission of COVID-19 from animals to humans. People are living in fear and I’ve heard some disheartening stories. Some people have poisoned street dogs. Another challenge is that there is shortage or unavailability of vaccines and some anti-neoplastic drugs which in turn leads to change in treatment protocol.
It is ok to feel anxious and grumpy, but keep those spirits up for yourself and your pet. Spend time together, laze around, and be safe at home!
(Dr Ankur Narad runs RGCN Pet Clinic in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh)