You may have heard the news that an Italian Greyhound in France contracted monkeypox from its owners, showing that the virus can jump from people to pets. Dr. Scott Weese, the chief of infection control at the OntarioVeterinary College, and director of the University of Guelph’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses, says that while this is cause for concern, it’s not a reason for panic.
In his blog, Worms and Germs, Dr. Weese explains that information about monkeypox should be treated the same as COVID-19, and that it’s important “to assume that a virus can infect a range of species until we know that it can’t.” At the present time, it’s not known whether dogs can transmit monkeypox to other animals, or to humans. While there’s still much we need to learn about monkey-pox in pets, Dr. Weese provides some guidelines on what to do in the event a monkeypox infection occurs in a household with pets.
• While some advise removing the pet from the household, this raises the risk of a potentially-infected animal spreading the virus to other households or facilities. Dr. Weese recommends keeping the pet at home, if possible, and using isolation methods to prevent transmission; or at the very least, limiting contact between the pet and any infected individuals.
• Monkey pox skin lesions should be covered, when possible, and the pet not allowed to have any direct contact with them. While the jury is still out on whether or not monkeypox can be transmitted via aerosol droplets as well as direct contact, wearing a mask isn’t a bad idea. Hand hygiene is vital, especially before touching the animal or handling his food or water bowls.
• Make sure the house has good ventilation. AHEPA filter running in the room/s being used by the infected person is helpful.
• An infected pet should not be exposed to others. Grooming appointments should be postponed, as should veterinary appointments (unless it’s an emergency). Dogs can be walked as long as they aren’t going to come into contact with other dogs.
• A person with monkeypox can remain infectious for up to 21 days. Potentially-exposed pets should ideally be kept away from veterinary offices, grooming salons and off-leash areas for another 21 days after that.
• Dr. Weese acknowledges that not all owners will be happy about isolating their pets from the human household, as this is stressful for both the animals and the people who rely on them for companionship and comfort. However, he emphasizes that following some of the guidelines above is better than doing nothing.
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