As of early May 2020, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) had infected nearly 5 million people around the world and left 316,732 dead. Many pet owners are worried about their pets and rushing to stock up on masks for their furry family members.
With the World Health Organisation has declared it a global health emergency, it’s no surprise people are concerned for their health and for the wellbeing of their animal companions.
After all, all we want to do is keep our pets healthy and happy. So what’s the breakdown on whether pets can get the virus, and should you be getting masks for your pets?
Pet mask sales are on the rise
Before the recent outbreak, Chineses e-commerce sellers were already trading pet masks, but these were for protection against air pollution. After the coronavirus outbreak started generating coverage, demand from pet owners increased sharply. One individual seller claimed sales volumes had leaped from 150 masks per month to 50 masks a day.
It’s not only Chinese pet owners who are worried about their pets; pet owners in the US are also buying up masks for their dogs. Texas-based company Good Air Team produces the K9 Masks and has reported a sales spike in recent days, including a 300% jump in sales on their Amazon store. Owner Kirby Holmes confirmed most of the dog masks he sold were shipped to customers in the US.
So can masks help pets? The American Kennel Club says dogs don’t need face masks to protect them against coronaviruses. Experts aren’t yet sure exactly how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted, so they aren’t certain whether surgical masks can help prevent humans and pets from contracting coronavirus by limiting respiratory droplets.
According to Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the WHO, there’s no evidence yet pets can become sick from coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control has also chimed-in to ease pet owners’ worries by stating on their FAQs that “while this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person.”
Recommendations for pet owners
The AFCD recommends pet owners wash their hands after being around their pets and avoid kissing their pets. Vanessa Barrs from the City University of Hong Kong says people who suspect they have coronavirus should keep a distance from their pets, wear a mask, and get a test to confirm whether they’ve been infected. The AFCD says there’s no evidence yet that pets can be a source of infection for humans.
Jane Gray, Hong Kong SPCA’s chief veterinary surgeon, says not only is there no benefit in fitting your pet with a face mask; it could be distressing for pets and lead to panic. Gray says good hygiene is the best solution for pet owners. Owners should wash their hands with soap and water after touching their pets, and concerned owners could wipe their dog’s paws with antiseptic wipes after walks.
Owners who have COVID-19 should limit contact with their pets and other animals and have someone else in the household care for their pets while they’re sick. If you must come into contact with your pets while sick, it’s a good idea for you to wear a face mask.
Similarly, if you need to travel somewhere urgent or to the vet with your dog, make sure to take the necessary precautions, including keeping them contained in a pet carrier or crate and maintaining good hygiene. And, if you have any pet travel concerns, it is always recommended to consult with a vet.
Your pet doesn’t need a face mask – and despite claims of pets contracting the virus, experts insist that there’s no evidence so far that pets can contract coronavirus. Additionally, even if human-to-pet or pet-to-human transmission were likely, a mask might not even protect your pet. However, speak to your vet for specific advice if you’re concerned, particularly if you’re a senior.
Your vet can also give you advice on the right type of mask for your pet and on additional strategies that could prevent your animal companion from contracting the virus. Bordetella, parainfluenza, and canine influenza are some of the more common respiratory diseases in pets, and vaccines are available for these diseases, so speak to your vet about getting your pet vaccinated for these if you’re concerned about your pet’s health.