Datin Dona Drury-Wee

KUCHING: Nadia, the Malayan tiger that tested positive for Covid-19 in New York recently, has raised concerns among animal lovers, but to date, there is no evidence that animals, especially pets, can spread the disease. 

Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury-Wee said while animals and people could sometimes share zoonotic diseases, it was still recommended that people diagnosed with Covid-19 to limit contact with pets and other animals until more information was known about the virus.

“When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented,” she said. 

She said this included hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food. 

“When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for Covid-19, should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. 

“Animals belonging to owners infected with Covid-19 should be kept indoors or in a confined area as much as possible,” she said.

She said it was also important that Covid-19 did not lead to inappropriate measures being taken against domestic or wild animals that might compromise their welfare and health and must not keep them in cages 24 hours outdoors, exposed to the sun or rain. 

“If your pet develops an unexplained illness and had been around a Covid-19 positive person, do not take the animal to a veterinary clinic unless you have been instructed to do so,” she said. 

She said reports so far had shown that pets only get mild symptoms that seemed to clear up on their own with proper care at home.

“If your pet does need veterinary attention after exposure to a Covid-19 patient, call your veterinary clinic first and inform that you are bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person with Covid-19,” she said, adding that this would allow the clinic time to prepare an isolation area if pet owners were permitted to go to the clinic.

She added at this time, most vet clinics in Sarawak would prefer to operate on an appointment basis to avoid having too many owners and pets in the waiting room.

“What should be done with pets in areas where the virus is active? It is important that pet owners should avoid contact with animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before and after they interact with animals. 

“If owners are sick with Covid-19, they should try to limit the amount of direct contact with animals in their household, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food,” she said. 

She said if there was a need to care for their pet or be around animals while they are sick, they should wash their hands before and after interaction with their pets and should also wear a face mask.

“We should continue to care for our pets in a responsible manner, as, for some people, they could be your only sane companions during this lockdown period,” she said. 

Drury-Wee urged the public to check facts before forwarding any information and they could always visit trusted websites to check for updated information on animals such as World Health Organisation, World Small Animal Veterinary Association and OIE World Organisation for Animal Health.