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Veterinarians Ask Owners To Care For Animals And Their Vets During COVID-19

The New Zealand Veterinary Association says owners must continue to care for their animals’ health and welfare during the country’s response to COVID-19.

"We appreciate there are many issues that people are dealing with in relation to COVID-19, particularly those self-isolating or with family members taking this precautionary measure," says New Zealand Veterinary Association Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Helen Beattie.

"We would like to re-assure New Zealand animal owners that, despite a second dog in Hong Kong testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, there is currently no reliable evidence that animals are playing a role in the widespread transmission of the disease between humans or other animals.

"We are being guided by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). Both dogs that tested positive were living with people affected by COVID-19.

There have been no clinical signs reported in the dogs, and the positive tests are likely due to the animals being contaminated by their owners. These organisations also recommend owners affected by COVID-19 take similar precautions in interacting with their animals, as they would with people during this time - physical distancing as much as is practical, which limits possible virus transfer, and good hygiene practices.

"They should limit close contact with their pets and maintain high standards of hygiene, such as washing hands before and after interacting with their animals. "There is certainly no justification for abandonment, euthanasia, or any measures that might compromise animal welfare, in the light of the outbreak of COVID-19."

Dr Beattie also emphasises the need for people to act responsibly towards their veterinary team during this time.

"We have heard of clients that should be self-isolating turning up at veterinary clinics with their animals. This is unacceptable and puts the profession at risk. We implore anyone affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating - call your clinic first if your animal needs urgent veterinary care. This allows the staff to make an appropriate plan, whilst lowering their exposure risk.

"We need the veterinary profession to stay healthy during this time. Risking the health of your veterinary staff risks their ability to provide effective care for everybody’s animals." Dr Beattie also encourages animal owners to be sure they are accessing accurate information, given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation worldwide.

"It is really important that people exercise critical thinking when taking on new information. Make sure that you are tuning in to credible sources when you do. Organisations including the NZVA, OIE, WSAVA and the World Veterinary Association are regularly updating and distributing information about COVID-19 online and through social media."

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