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On March 11, 2020, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the virus and ensuing panic has spread to countries across the world, the big question concerning pet owners is: can dogs get coronavirus?

There is currently no evidence that this strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, is believed to be a threat to dogs. That said, dog owners face the unique responsibility of maintaining their dogs’ health and safety while adhering to increasing recommendations towards social distancing, self-monitoring, and even quarantines. To help educate on how to care for dogs during the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve put together some basic information that can help decipher dog owner questions during these trying times.

Due to the uncertain and evolving nature of the pandemic, be sure to stay up to date with local, state, and federal protocols each day, as available information and health recommendations remain subject to change.

Can I Walk My Dog?

Since the early days of the outbreak, when social media showed photos of dogs in masks and full bodysuits, it’s been determined that dogs are not in fact at risk to COVID-19. While dog ownership has its health benefits, all humans are currently at risk to the coronavirus outbreak. So does that mean you shouldn’t leave your house to let your dog do their business?

First, if you test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the coronavirus, experts recommend restricting contact with your pets. Doing so helps the virus from transmitting to their skin or coat, which might then be passed on to another person who touches your dog. In these cases, owners should consider asking family members or friends for help walking your dog or dogs.

Physical and mental exercise is extremely important for dogs and dog owners alike. As long as the area in which they reside remains safe enough to venture outside, dog owners feeling healthy and well should plan to continue walking their dogs daily, albeit with added safety measures. Observe any local ordinances concerning curfews, even if that means adjusting your dog walking schedule.

Owners should wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after each walk. Consider carrying around a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer during your walks. Practice social distancing measures by walking your dog in uncrowded areas when possible. If you live in a big city, make efforts to take your dog down less-heavily-trafficked blocks, or try adjusting walks to less busy times of day and night.

Can I Go To The Dog Park?

If you normally take your dog to a crowded dog park or dog run, consider taking a hiatus from such locations. If your dog truly depends on off-leash time at the park to maintain their sanity and your own, make efforts to visit the park during off-peak hours, when there is less likely to be a large crowd of people there. Be extra cautious of coming into contact with surfaces, as dog parks can often be breeding grounds for germs. Finally, be wary of physical contact with other, unknown dogs during this time. While dogs can’t catch the virus, you never know how many humans may have been in contact with that dog, or how healthy they may or may not be.

Can I Play With My Dog Outside?

For owners fortunate enough to have fenced-in yards, outdoor play is acceptable and encouraged. Again, however, hygiene and cleanliness are more important than ever during a pandemic. So, wash hands before and after outdoor play, and wipe your pet’s paws down before they come back inside.

Keeping Your Dog Active Indoors

While outdoor exercise is still possible for some dog owners during the pandemic, it’s not necessarily an option for all, such as those being asked to shelter in place. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to exercise and entertain your dog indoors, including indoor scent games, dog sport training, and even treadmills for dogs.

The bottom line is that dog owners have a responsibility to be educated, aware, safe, and responsible with their dogs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Life in America has been upended in many ways, and dog ownership is no exception. However, with the right knowledge and precautions taken, dog owners can help guide their pets through this pandemic in a socially responsible way.

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