COVID-19 has temporarily changed our lives. Things we took we granted, such as running out to grab a few things at the grocery store, heading out after work to socialize with friends, or taking your pet to the veterinarian when he or she “gets into something,” just don’t easily happen anymore. While this is a temporary situation, we are all adapting to these changes now.
Many veterinary clinics have changed how they’re operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social or physical distancing is certainly being practiced in all clinics, but some jurisdictions have implemented strict by-laws causing disruption to the normal operations of veterinary clinics. Many practices have moved to telemedicine, triaging services (such as PetNurse), and focusing only on urgent or emergency veterinary care. This means that your veterinary clinic may be operating with reduced staff, reduced personal protective equipment, and reduced hours.
Here are some reminders to help keep your pets safe and “emergency-free,” reducing visits to the clinic and thereby decreasing your risk—and your veterinary healthcare team’s risk—of being infected with COVID-19.
As we spend more time at home with our pets, keeping a close eye on their daily antics, we may think our pets would be safer, but some of our new daily routines may actually put them at greater risk.
Coffee or tea should not be shared with your furry friends during your coffee breaks. Caffeine can cause vomiting and diarrhea and is toxic to the heart and nervous system. Don’t leave your coffee or tea unattended for curious pets to drink!
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a double whammy of toxins. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which are both toxic to the heart and nervous system. In high enough quantities, dark chocolate can cause death.
It seems that everyone is experimenting with baking bread during COVID-19—whether it be sourdough or traditional loaves. Either way, unbaked bread dough can be problematic for two reasons:
- If the unbaked dough is eaten by your pet, it will continue to rise in your pet’s stomach. This can result in a life-threatening condition called gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV) or bloat.
- The fermenting yeast in the bread dough produces alcohol, which when consumed, can cause alcohol poisoning. Sourdough starters that are left to ferment for a long time and aren’t “fed” frequently enough can form a liquid layer that is very high in alcohol. Keep your sourdough starter safely out of reach of your pet.
As the weather improves and we find more ways to spend time outdoors, such as starting a vegetable garden or tending to our perennial beds, be cautious of the types of insecticides and fertilizers you use. For example, metaldehyde, a common ingredient in snail and slug baits, is often used to keep snails and slugs out of vegetable crops such as lettuce and spinach, and out of ornamental gardens, especially those containing hostas. But metaldehyde is extremely toxic to pets. Accidental ingestion can cause rapid toxicity and can lead to death without immediate veterinary treatment. Consider the use of non-toxic snail and slug deterrents such as crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth. And consider natural compost instead of chemical fertilizers that can have toxic effects.
Many spring and summer plants can be toxic to pets, including certain species of lilies. Cats are particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of lilies (such as Asiatic, stargazer, red, tiger, and daylilies). Consuming any part of the plant can cause kidney failure. Make sure the plants in your garden are pet safe.
As the temperatures rise, be sure to keep your pets cool. Heatstroke can occur quickly and can be deadly without veterinary intervention. Provide access to shade if your pet spends his or her days outside and ensure he or she always has access to fresh cool water. Wet your dog down with cool water or let your dog take a “swim” in a small pool. On hot days, keep your pets inside and avoid exercise, especially between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
Keep safe, keep well, and follow these guidelines to avoid extra trips to your veterinarian’s office during COVID-19. If you do experience an emergency with your pet, or you’re not sure if your pet has consumed a toxic product, contact your veterinary clinic right away.