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About the Novel Coronavirus

At press time, six Bay Area counties had issued shelter in place orders for residents to stop the novel coronavirus. With regard to companion animals, humans don’t appear to have much to worry about.   

The Mercury News spoke with Elena Bicker, executive director of Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, who said there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Additionally, there is no evidence that pets are becoming infected.

The East Bay SPCA noted that having your dog vaccinated against coronavirus will not prevent COVID-19. While there is a general coronavirus vaccine, it is not designed to work against this particular virus.

The pet advocates said being proactive in preventative measures and having an emergency plan are the best ways to protect you and your pet and had the following tips:

Take precautions similar to common flu prevention.

Seek out reliable sources for updated information such as he Centers for Disease Control (, the World Health Organization (, and World Small Animal Veterinary Association (

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, the CDC recommends you minimize contact with your human and animal companions. Identify a family member or friend who can care for your pet.

Have crates, food, and extra supplies, including medications, on hand for quick movement of the pet. Two weeks’ worth of food, medicine and other supplies is recommended. A pet first-aid kit is also good to have for any unplanned situation.

Ensure your animal’s vaccines are up-to-date in case boarding becomes necessary.

Document all medications with dosages and administering directions, including prescriptions from your veterinarian if a refill becomes necessary.

Pets should have identification such as an ID tag on their collar and a microchip. But remember, a microchip is only as good as the contact information registered to it.

Follow CDC and WHO guidelines: Wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice; avoid touching your face; stay home if you are sick; cough or sneeze into your elbow; wash your hands before and after handling pets.

If your companion animal has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the public health worker involved with the patient’s care. They will contact state veterinarians and direct you from there. If you are told to bring your pet to your veterinarian, call first so they can prepare isolation areas.

And Something Else 

Dogs and cats can test positive for low levels of the caronavirus pathogen by apparently catching it from their owners, The Daily Journal reported recently.

 Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department concluded this after a dog in quarantine tested weakly positive for the virus Feb. 27, Feb. 28, and March 2. The test used the canine’s nasal and oral cavity samples.

There is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they become sick,” an unidentified spokesman for the department said.

Scientists suspect the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease originated in bats before passing it on to another species, possibly a small wild mammal, that passed it on to humans. However, experts from the School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) agreed that the dog had a low-level of infection that was “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.”

 The department suggested any pets, including dogs and cats, from households where someone has tested positive for the virus should be put into quarantine. In general, pet owners should maintain good hygiene, including washing hands before and after handling animals, their food, and supplies. 

Understanding Dog Behavior

Those hugs you give your dog? She hates it.

The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts, reported recently that dogs don’t like hugs, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean contentment, and whale eye means they’re probably uncomfortable.

All that from animal behavior expert Cathy Acampora of Plymouth County’s 4-H Club who told kiddos at a Pembroke library, “We don’t understand dog culture. Sometimes dogs tell us what they’re feeling, but we don’t know their language.”

She had Merida, her 4-year-old collie and a trained therapy dog, demonstrate dog behaviors to help kids learn how to treat and better understand their four-legged friends.

Acampora has degrees in animal science and wildlife biology. Before joining 4-H in 2011, she worked as a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo, training other zookeepers how to care for animals ranging from insects to birds to mammals. She was inspired to deliver the program and write two books on the topic in light of bites that happen to children. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, children are the most common victims of dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured. About half of the over 4.5 million dog bites per year happen to children, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some Iditarod Factoids

Here are some interesting nuggets about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from the Anchorage Daily News. 

Whether dogs wear coats depends on air temperature, wind direction, wind speed, fur thickness, the dogs’ body mass, and much more. Coats can be light, such as windbreakers without insulation to mitigate dehydrating effects of a tailwind. And some coats made of thin white fabric keep the dogs cooler on bright, sunny days (particularly for dogs with dark fur).  

Some dogs wear a strip of fur or fleece — typically a coyote tail, hanging around the bottom part of their waists. These are called pecker protectors, male wraps, sheath covers, or simply “tails” and protect male dogs’ un-furry bits from the cold. Real fur serves an important purpose; it cuts wind and sheds urine and ice. In certain snow conditions, dogs wear leggings keep snow and ice from freezing in clumps onto their fur.

Most mushers carry enough food to get the team to the next checkpoint, plus spare snacks and meals and replenish supplies from drop bags they’ve sent ahead. The sled dogs eat beef, beef blend, chicken thighs, chicken fat, salmon, sheefish, and kibble. Some mushers give their dogs bacon, pork chops, steak, or other treats.

Their dogs get snacks every hour or hour and a half. A team can run for several hours without snacks or food, but each dog should be eating 10,000 calories a day to maintain weight, so frequent treats help them to get as many calories as possible.

New Rules for Restraint and Living Condition 

Surrounded by dogs at a Bark Park, Delaware Gov. John Carney recently signed a measure designed to limit how long dogs are allowed to be tied up outside, according to radio station WHYY. 

Under the new law, if no one is home, dogs can only be tied up for two hours. In times of extreme heat or cold, dogs can only be kept outside for 15 minutes.

The measure also clarifies what type of structure dogs can be kept in outside. Previously, doghouses could have wire flooring if kept in good condition and not harmful to the dog’s paws. The new law bans wire flooring all together and also bans metal structures.

A first violation of the new law could result in a $100 fine. A second violation could cost $250, with each subsequent violation costing $500, plus court costs.

Mail Stoppage

WTVG in Toledo, Ohio, reported that a mail carrier frightened of a homeowner’s dog quit delivering the mail there altogether.

 The postal service worker had said the dogs have escaped previously so delivery was suspended. The homeowner, Brandon Allen, said his dogs are disabled with one 70 percent blind and the recovering from being hit by a car.  

The post office said mail carriers are bitten by dogs often, and there’s no way to know if a dog is friendly or not. So if a dog escapes one too many times, mail for that residence will be stopped, and the owner will have to pick it up at the post office.

Allen tried to rectify the problem, moving his mailbox to the street. “They said that I had a dog issue, but I have a privacy fence; I have an electrified dog fence,” said Allen.

The post office agreed to determine whether Allen had taken the steps necessary so that service could be renewed to his home. However, it is the discretion of the post office to not send a carrier to a home if the carrier does not feel safe.