A few dog walkers have refused to let us pet their dogs, saying they’re worried it spreads the coronavirus. Are they right?
My 14-year-old son Leo has outgrown the lemonade stand and now runs a big-kid summer business mowing lawns and walking dogs. He calls it Leo’s Dog and Lawn, and you can find him on Facebook. Dogs of all kinds have been his passion for years. He calls them “love wrapped in fur,” and I think it’s a testament to his character to have a canine whisperer tendency at his tender age. Dogs are attracted to him like bees to lemonade: whenever we’re at the park, Leo and I often find ourselves in the path of a smiling Fur Love with its owner, and invariably, Leo asks if he can love on the dog, whose waggly tail and and big grin is the same question. Owners are thrilled to say yes.
But lately, that has not always been the case. Twice now we’ve run into owners who weren’t so keen to let us pet their dogs. “No, I’d prefer you didn’t,” said one lady who pulled her bulldog mix back when we asked if we could pet him. “You know, the virus,” was all the explanation she gave us. Not long after, Leo and I missed out on greeting an adorable long-haired chihuahua, with the owner flat out telling us, “You can get corona from dogs, you know. It sits on their fur.”
I hadn’t heard this, and of course, I was worried Leo would have to shut down his summer business and go back to selling canned Minute Maid. So, I did a little investigating, and here’s what I found:
Once deposited by the inadvertent sneeze or cough, COVID19 can live on both non-porous and porous surfaces for various periods depending on the surface. It fairs better on non-porous surfaces like your countertop, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disinfecting non-porous surfaces every day. Porous surfaces, like dog fur, do have more hiding places for the virus, but–here’s the catch–non-porous surfaces tend to be more exposed to the elements, like water and sunshine and temperature changes. It’s harder for COVID19 to keep up.
According to Rachel Graham, a virologist at the University of North Carolina, “The chances of you getting [coronavirus] from fur and hair is going to be less than getting it from a solid surface.” The April 7, 2020 online edition of Time Magazine agrees: “At the moment, it appears there’s little-to-no risk of pets transmitting the [corona]virus to their human owners, with no specific evidence suggesting this type of transmission has ever happened.”
So, it seems safe for humans to pet dogs. But, now here’s the twist: is it safe for dogs to be petted by humans?
According to the same Time Magazine article, a pug called Winston has tested positive, and the “tail” goes he contracted the virus from his owners, who are both medical professionals in high risk environments. There’s no word on whether Winston is OK, and so far, reported cases of canine COVID19 infections are deliriously low, as in two overall, and only one of those was in the United States. Given those numbers, it’s extremely unlikely your dog will catch COVID19 from other humans.
Those humans, though, can really benefit from petting your dog. There is plenty of evidence slobbery canine affection is good for human health: lowered blood pressure and lowered stress both boost the immune system and release oxytocin–the love hormone that staves off loneliness and depression. It seems the immunity-boosting effect of exchanging wet kisses and coos of adoration and furry hugs far outweighs any transmission risk to either dogs or humans.
So, given that petting dogs during this pandemic is safe and healthy, should the idea of guidelines give one “paws?” Well, of course. Common sense howls COVID19 transmission is still possible person-to-person, and dogs can carry other germs, even if COVID19 isn’t one of them. Stay six feet from the owner, wear your mask, and wash your hands after petting any pet. Don’t pet dogs if you’re sick. Owners may want to consider a retractable leash that allows for well over six feet between you and petting action. Leo and I keep our masks and hand sanitizer in the car so dog days at the park are safe for us and the folks we meet.
Washing isn’t just for humans; it’s good for dogs, too, especially if you frequent the dog park or suspect your sweet pup may have come into contact with a sick person. If the idea of bathing your dogger fills you with visions of a soapy, soggy battleground, click here for my tips on how to make it the best bath ever.
And now that I feel all warm and gooey from petting a shepherd mutt called Kooky and a chubby lab dachshund mix called Minne–Leo had a dog walking job this morning–I’m going to pop a cold lemonade. Leo won’t need this back up stash.
What about you? Are you worried COVID19 can spread to or from your dog? What do you do to keep walking your dog safer? We here are Pro-Tek ADORE DOGS. Upload a pic of your fur baby and tell us why he or he is so special to you.