Considerations Related To Covid-19 For Companion Animal Practitioners

The FVMA has been receiving questions about how to handle various situations relating to COVID-19. Many revolve around how to handle a pet that may or may not have come into contact with a COVID-19 infected person. This question has become more pressing, as two dogs (Hong Kong), two cats (Hong Kong and Belgium) and, now, a tiger (Bronx Zoo in New York) have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the AVMA: “It appears that dogs and cats are not readily infected with SARS-CoV-2, we have little to no evidence that they become ill, and no evidence that those that may be naturally infected spread SARS-CoV-2 to other pets or people.”

We reached out to the Florida Department of Health to help address COVID-19 concerns in the veterinary profession. They’ve issued the following guidance.

Basic Points for Veterinary Health Care Providers Treating Companion Animals:

  • Everyone, including veterinary health care providers and their clients, should be aware of Florida Executive Order 20-91: senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition (such as chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease) shall stay at home and take all measure to limit risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • When scheduling an appointment with a client, the veterinary staff member should ask the client if the pet has been exposed to a known or suspected COVID-19 case. Telemedicine may be an option, in some cases.
  • If essential veterinary care is needed at the clinic, a healthy friend or family member should bring the animal in, and staff should again ask if the pet has been exposed to a known or suspected COVID-19 case upon intake.
  • Refer to the AVMA’s flowchart “Minimizing COVID-19 Exposure and Social Distancing in Veterinary Practice” to help you and your practice decide how a patient can be best cared for while also staying as safe as possible.
  • Staff who handle the animal should continue to be diligent with standard infection control practices including good hand hygiene, avoiding mucous membrane exposure to pet saliva and other bodily fluids. At minimum, gloves and outerwear are recommended when working with the animal and cleaning the animal’s environment. Gloves, gown and goggles / face shield with surgical mask, as well as minimizing the number of staff present are recommended if there is a risk for sprays or splashes. See National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) Veterinary Standard Precautions and CDC Optimizing PPE.
  • The pet should be kept isolated from other pets while at the practice.
  • If an animal has a new, concerning illness not attributable to more common medical conditions, and resides with a person with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19, the responding veterinarian should contact the Florida State Public Health Veterinarian (850-245-4117 or 850-245-4401) or Florida State Animal Health Official (850-410-0900 or after hours/weekends 800-342-5869).
  • Continue to clean and disinfect all equipment used at your facility, following package instructions including recommended contact time. Read more about cleaning and disinfection for community facilities and control and prevention.
  • Non-human primates should be managed at a referral practice that specializes in the care of these animals.

In regards to the tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York testing positive, the AVMA has shared the following information.

“On April 5, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in one tiger in a zoo in New York. This is the first instance of a tiger being infected with COVID-19. Samples from the tiger were obtained and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed clinical signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe the large cats became sick after exposure to an employee who was actively shedding virus. The zoo was closed in mid-March and the first tiger began showing clinical signs on March 27. All of the large cats are expected to recover and no other animals in the zoo are exhibiting clinical signs of disease. USDA and CDC are continuing to monitor the animals, and state animal and public health officials will determine whether other animals, at this zoo or in other areas, should be tested for SARS-CoV-2. The OIE will also be notified.”

The FVMA’s brochure, concerning the protection of pets and the community during this COVID-19 crisis, has been updated to reflect this new information.