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COVID-19 and Your Dog: Tips, Tricks, and Safety Information

A woman wearing a mask and feeding her dog a treat while out on a walk.

Staying at home and away from others is one of the top ways to prevent contracting COVID-19. However, most dog owners have to go out often for walks and playtime. How can you keep yourself and your pet safe?

If yard space is limited, you’re probably in the habit of walking your dog every day. You probably often take your furry best friend to the local dog park, too. If so, you’ve probably been wondering how social distancing applies to dogs and their owners.

To help you stay safe, we’ve put together some COVID-19 FAQs for dog owners. Here’s how you can keep your dog happy and active, and both of you healthy!

Can Dogs Get COVID-19?

Most pet owners have been concerned about whether their furbabies can contract the coronavirus. Conflicting information has made this question hard to answer. This is mostly because everyone is still learning how COVID-19 works. However, based on the latest reports from the Food and Drug Administration, it appears that both dogs and cats can get the coronavirus from people.

However, it seems that pets are far less likely to contract the virus than humans. Dogs, in particular, are also far less likely to transmit the virus to other pets if they catch it.

Can Your Dog Give You COVID-19?

While it looks like dogs occasionally catch the virus from people, so far, it doesn’t look like they can spread it to humans. While there has been evidence of human-to-dog transmission, there’s been nothing yet that proves dog-to-human transmission is possible.

Is It Safe to Walk Your Dog?

Regular walks are important for your dog’s health. Luckily, walking your dog is a fairly safe activity if you take a few precautions.

Most importantly, always wear your face mask when you go for walks and stay at least six feet away from anyone else you encounter. Also, keep your dog at least six feet away from other people and other dogs.

Try to take your walks in less crowded areas, or at times of day when people are less likely to be out and about.

Is It Safe to Go to the Dog Park?

While walks are fairly safe right now, dog parks aren’t a good idea. Interacting with other people and other dogs increases the chances of viral transmission. For example, if someone sneezes near you, the virus could end up on your dog’s fur.

While the coronavirus lasts longer on hard surfaces, like counters and door handles, rather than porous ones, like fur and fabric, it’s still a possibility. As so little is known, it’s still best to play it safe. Avoid unleashed areas and dog parks where your dog would be free to interact with others.

Should You Let Strangers Pet Your Dog?

For the same reasons you should avoid the dog park, you also shouldn’t let strangers pet your dog. While the risk to your dog is low, anyone who’s close enough to pet your dog is also too close to you.

Although presently, there’s no evidence to support the virus being transmitted from skin to fur, we certainly wouldn’t blame you if you want to bathe your doggo after a day out.

For the most part, though, try to stick to your pet’s regular hygiene routine and products. Just as you’ve been washing your hands with plain old soap, plain old dog shampoo is all you need to give your dog a good rinse.

Definitely avoid using anything like cleaners or disinfectants on your dog or his accessories, as most of these products are toxic to animals.

Should Dogs Wear Face Masks?

A woman wearing a mask, preparing to throw a toy for her dog to fetch on a nature trail.
Maria Sbytova/Shutterstock

While humans should wear face masks in public, putting a mask of any kind on your dog would likely cause more harm than good. Just wear yours and maintain social distancing for both you and your pet.

Should Your Dog Have Playdates?

Ideally, your pet shouldn’t interact with any human or animal that doesn’t live in your own household.

However, while playdates certainly aren’t a no-risk activity, one with a pet from another trusted household is definitely safer than going to the dog park and interacting with strangers. If you do take your dog to visit someone, still try to remain six feet away from other people.

Don’t forget to wash your hands and bathe your dog when you get home.

Should Your Dog Share Water with Other Dogs?

The risk of spreading COVID-19 through a communal water bowl is low, but it’s still best avoided. Bring a portable water bottle for your dog if you go anywhere, so she doesn’t have to share.

Is It Safe to Hire a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter?

A dog walker or pet sitter who’s visited many homes is at a greater risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to others. If he or she uses public transportation, the risk of exposure goes up even more.

Watching and walking your dog yourself is the best way to protect both of you. If you must hire someone, it’s best if it’s a friend, neighbor, or family member. Practice social distancing and minimize contact as much as possible. You can also ask anyone walking your dog to bring their own leash, which will further reduce the chances of transmission.

Any time it’s possible your dog has been exposed to the virus, give her a bath as soon as you get home. You should also wash your hands after you pet your dog anytime there’s a possibility the virus could have been transferred to her fur. Again, the risk of this is very low, but it’s still a good precaution to take.

Should You Buy Any Protective Gear for Your Dog?

There aren’t any COVID-19 medicines or protective equipment you need to buy for your dog right now. However, it’s a good idea to stock up on your pet’s regular food and medicines. Having an extra supply on hand means fewer errands you have to run outside your home. You’ll also be prepared if there’s a shortage.

If your dog is on any prescription medications, you might want to consider having them filled by a mail-order veterinary pharmacy. (While you’re at it, consider doing the same for yourself!)

Should You Isolate From Your Dog If You Have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19 or think you’ve been exposed, it’s best to minimize contact with your dog. In addition to quarantining yourself from other people, try to quarantine yourself from your pets, as well.

Let someone else, like a trusted friend or neighbor, come and care for your dog, or see if your pet can stay with a friend until you recover. It’s a good idea to figure out ahead of time who will care for your dog if you get sick, so you have a plan in place.

If you don’t know anyone who can help out, just wear a face mask whenever you’re with your pets, and wash your hands before and after you touch them. The chances of your dog catching the virus from you are already small, but these precautions will help minimize the risk even further.

What If Your Dog Gets COVID-19?

If you suspect your dog is infected, don’t take him to the vet right away. Call first and discuss the symptoms (such as sneezing or coughing) with your vet. He or she will then help you decide what the next steps should be.

Even if your dog has something else, you should still call the vet before taking him in. Some illnesses can be treated from afar, and thus, you’ll be protected from potential exposure to the virus by avoiding the vet’s office.

Overall, COVID-19 seems to be a much larger threat to humans than it is to dogs. However, a few extra precautions will help keep both of you safe. Do your best to make sure your dog still gets plenty of exercise while you’re social distancing, and you’ll both be happy and healthy.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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