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COVID-19 and Walking Dogs: Be A Good Neighbor, Walk a Senior Citizen’s Dog


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Walk a senior citizen’s dog. I was about to write about this idea, and then what do you know Dr. Scott Weese, internal medicine specialist Ontario Veterinary College answered questions about this very possibility.

What about you walking your own dog? And can you safely walk the dog of an infirmed or older neighbor or friend?  Can you both be a good neighbor and be safe? The short answer, according to Dr. Weese, is “yes.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, senior citizens and those who have other unrelated chronic illness are most prone to COVID-19. And the U.S. government has asked all seniors to stay at home.

The dog hand-off from a neighbor offers a negligible risk. If you are concerned, simply carry hand sanitizer, and when your dog walking is complete, wash your hands. And ask the infirmed or older neighbor or friend to wash hands after the dog is returned. One means to return the dog is to have no interaction with a human, and just allow the dog back into the home. If that is not possible, during the hand-off, keep as far a part as you can – without endangering the dog to run off

There appears to be minimal risk of the risk SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 being transmitted by an infected person touching a dog (or cat) and the virus being transmitted by another person by petting the animal, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Gail Golab, chief veterinary officer of the AVMA answers that exact issue.

If you are concerned, simply wear gloves.  Also, it’s still cold enough out in many parts of the country and therefore not a bad idea for small dogs and sight hounds to wear a coat or sweater. People tend not to pet dogs wearing coats or sweaters.

Also, on that walk – as per social distancing suggestions, stay away from other people, even if the pup wants to say ‘hi.’

Dog parks or beaches are fine, IF the dog enjoys it, and if you keep an eye on the dog (both are usual recommendations)  and if you keep a distance from other humans (dogs aren’t the issue regarding social distancing). Bring hand sanitizer in an abundance of safety (if you desire) to use after petting other dogs. And definitely use soap and water when you arrive home. However, the CDC has asked not to congregate in groups larger than 10 and staying away from other people at dog parks may not be easy to do. For a time, might be a better plan to toss the ball to your pooch in your back yard or at least visit the dog park early in the morning when there aren’t likely as many humans around.

As for dog walkers, the hope is that dog walker is using hand sanitizers between walks, and won’t walk dogs if he or she isn’t feeling well. And isn’t one of those walkers that takes 10 dogs simultaneously (which for other reasons is often not the best idea).

Also, its a good plan to bathe your dog regularly anyhow, and certainly wash your own hands after petting a stranger’s dog you may see on the street, again not a bad idea having nothing to do with COVID-19.

If the person who’s dog you are walking has been tested positive for COVID-19, yes, be more careful. Having said that, to date, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 – which is a human corona virus – may make a companion animal ill, or be transmitted via that animal to a human.

So, go ahead and be a good neighbor!

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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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