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AVMA and COVID-19 and Your Pets: Is There a Reason to Worry?


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On my Steve Dale’s Pet World Listen HERE as Dr. Gail Golab, Chief Veterinary Officer, Scientific Affairs and Public Policy at the American Veterinary Medical Association explains what we do know and what we still may not be sure of regarding COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).

Dr. Gail Golab

Veterinarians deal with corona viruses a lot and have for a very long time, canine and feline corona viruses – which the two species don’t share with one another or share with people. Also, when we get the common cold it’s usually a human corona virus (not to be confused with the new novel corona virus which is now impacting the entire planet). And dogs and cats have never gotten colds from humans. But as Dr. Golab notes, this virus is different, and it’s novel and we’re still learning about it.

There was a dog tested for the COVID-19 virus in Hong Kong, owned by someone who was suffering from COVID-19. The dog does have a low level of infection. But the dog has not become ill, and has not been able to spread the virus to other dogs or to people. (Important to note: any animal may carry and infection and not be infectious). Still, the AVMA and particularly local veterinarians will continue to follow this one Pomeranian in Hong Kong.

IDEXX Laboratories, Inc.  announced that the company has tested thousands of dogs and cats for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19), and thus-far not a single positive test. These new test results align with the current expert understanding that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person, and is now considered a human corona virus.

Still, Dr. Golab says use common sense regarding interactions with dogs and cats.  It makes sense to wash hands after handling any animal. If you are a positive for COVID-19, it probably makes sense to have someone else in the home care for the animal (if possible).

Dr. Golab agrees with that in this time of great stress, hearing cats purr in our ears and taking walks with our dogs can be helpful.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has stayed on top on this fluid situation, and is arguably the most reliable resource. The AVMA and CDC do communicate with another. So many blogs and social media may be spreading misinformation – Dr. Golab and the AVMA are arguably the most trusted in this time of confusion and fear.

Insurance Bite

Senator Linda Holmes

Also, on the show, HEAR Senator Linda Holmes (42nd), sponsor of Senate Bill 2462 which will prevent insurance companies from asking pet owners, “What breed do you have.” For renters and homeowners insurance, many companies definitely profile based on breed. If you have any number of breeds you either pay more for a policy or you simply can’t be insured by that company.

There are many problems with this, as Sen. Holmes explains. First, often they don’t even get the presumed breed right in the first place. And there’s no uniformity, even among insurance carriers. So, company X will, for example, ban or charge more for an Australian Cattle Dog in Illinois, but next door in Wisconsin that same insurance has no issue with Australian Cattle Dogs. How can that breed have a different temperament one state over? And besides, temperament and likelihood to bite isn’t based on breed anyhow.

The problem is that insurance companies are discriminating, and it’s not based on absolute or any consistent verifiable data. And as Holmes notes, if company X – says “Well, we know in our states Akitas are responsible for bites and are bad dogs,” very often the breed is misidentified anyway. And there are no bad dog breeds. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention long ago when tallying fatal dog bites stopped identifying breed. The second reason is that they say – even if the breed is identified correctly – it’s irrelevant information and doesn’t explain what happened that caused the bite. The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (a paper which I co-authored) and so many other groups of experts agree  – though not most insurance carriers.

State Farm Insurance and Farmer’s Insurance don’t ask for breed, and Holmes wants all companies to be equally as fair, supported by Best Friends Animal Society. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Best Friends Senior Legislative Analyst Ledy VanKavage about this on my show, and then on the John Williams Show.

So, which is the pit bull?

Holmes and VanKavage want to hear your stories HERE  if you’ve been at the wrong end of some of insurance company profiling.

Hoot and a Hollar

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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