• Published on Sep 4, 2020

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JOHN WHYTE: Hey, everyone. I'm Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD. And you're watching Coronavirus in Context.

What's the impact of COVID-19 on our pets? We've been talking about it a few times over the past couple of months. So to provide some new insights, I've asked Dr. Will Draper. He's the practice director of the Village Vet, as well as a popular blogger here at WebMD. Dr. Will, thanks for joining me.

WILL DRAPER: Great to be here. Thank you, Dr. John, for having me.

JOHN WHYTE: Now, let's start off with the impact of this pandemic on pets, because early on we thought it was just going to be-- at one point we thought it was just going to be two weeks. And then it became--

WILL DRAPER: Yeah.

JOHN WHYTE: --several months. So what's the impact on our pets even from the perspective of companionship? We're around all the time. They weren't used to that. And for some of us, they're going to be going back to work. How is that going to impact when they've been used to it for six, seven months?

WILL DRAPER: You know, the pets will probably breathe a sigh of relief. Uh, you know, one thing that's very interesting with pets and their owners, um, being together more often-- one of the impacts on the pets is that they're going to the vet more often because owners are seeing things that they don't typically see during the day that they may find to be unusual behavior, but really are, uh, typically what pets do all day. You know, not to be real graphic and gross about it, we've seen an increase--

JOHN WHYTE: That's a yes.

WILL DRAPER: --in things like potential anal gland i-issues or areas down in the private area, if you will, because they're noticing their pets, you know, kind of paying a lot of attention to that. And they feel like there's something wrong, but it's really what they do all day when they're bored.

So, um, those pets are now getting more attention, being seen more, which has increased our caseload, uh, you know, increased our, um-- you know, we're-- we're, uh, an industry that's very, very busy. Uh, and, um, you know, it's a good thing--

JOHN WHYTE: Right.

WILL DRAPER: --in a sense. It's challenging because most practices are doing the curbside service, which also is a little different for pets because they typically come in with their owners. But we're getting them out of the cars and bringing them in. So the pets will probably be as happy to f-- to find, um, a, uh, end and solution to this pandemic as we are.

JOHN WHYTE: But let's talk about anxiety in pets. You know, we do have data that shows pets can be anxious. There may be some pets who might have been adopted early on.

So you've been with them, you know, every day, all day for some of them, or seven months. And you may be going back to work. And then there is, you know, our pets that we've had for a while, where they've seen us all the time. And now, they were anxious then--

WILL DRAPER: [LAUGHS] Right.

JOHN WHYTE: --all the time, as you said. Uh, but now there's a change. Just like humans, pets don't often respond that well to change. So what should owners, pet lovers be looking out for, uh, perhaps as a sign that their pet may be anxious?

WILL DRAPER: You know, some of the signs of anxiety in pets, um, you know-- and that-- that's a great question because we're seeing a lot of that. You know, with-- the majority of the pets we see are dogs. And dogs, anxious dogs, tend to, um, you know, hide in, uh, closed spaces a lot. They like to be in dark rooms.

So if you're-- if you're finding your pets spending a lot of time in a small bathroom or a closet, that can be a sign of anxiety. You know, gastrointestinal issues can be a sign of anxiety. Also, issues like inappropriate urination, um, you know, along with gastrointestinal-- loose stool. You know, excessive grooming is something we see--

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

WILL DRAPER: --in a lot of cats that are anxious, um, and dogs.

JOHN WHYTE: Well, and cats. Because that can be tough in cats to tell--

WILL DRAPER: Yes, yes.

JOHN WHYTE: How do we tell if they're anxious? Is it, you know, perhaps furniture is-- is being, um, torn a little. What-- what would we see maybe in pet-- in cats that might be different?

WILL DRAPER: You know, ag-- you know, again, excessive grooming. Um, in-- inappropriate urination is a big one. Uh, unusual bathroom habits, going right outside of the litter box, or urinating on the owner's bed or pillow, if you will. Uh--

JOHN WHYTE: What about biting? Do we see biting--

WILL DRAPER: Biting.

JOHN WHYTE: --more often in pets?

WILL DRAPER: You-- you will see some, yes. You will see a little bit more aggression, um, because with that anxiety sometimes comes fear.

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

WILL DRAPER: You know, but-- but, you know, typically a dog or a-- or a, um, cat who is not generally aggressive, you may not see that. But it's certainly a sign of anxiety. Some pets lose, um, their appetite--

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

WILL DRAPER: --um, and-- and may interact in different situations differently than they typically do.

JOHN WHYTE: Fear has come up with the issue of masks, that pets, particularly dogs, aren't used to seeing a lot of people with masks--

WILL DRAPER: Yeah.

JOHN WHYTE: --including their owners. So what's the impact of mask wearing on our pets, ei-- either ourselves or when they see other people, you know, that might come to the home, or even outside when we're on a walk?

WILL DRAPER: It's, again, uh, one of trepidation, anxiety, fear, because not-- you know, they react a lot by our facial expressions and our emotions. And that mask cuts a lot of that off. So they are sometimes caught in-- in-- in between, if you-- in a bit of a quandary as to how they react to certain people, who is this person. You know, even my own dog, uh, has barked at me walking in the house with a mask on until I take the mask off because--

JOHN WHYTE: What kind of dog does Will Draper have?

WILL DRAPER: Well, the Draper family, we have five dogs. We have two golden doodles, a small Australian labradoodle, and, um, two French Bulldogs. And, you know, the labradoodle is, uh-- the-- the y-- is our puppy who is a more, um, recent addition. And that's something we're also seeing a lot of during the pandemic, people-- a-adoptions.

And through-- through, um, shelters, uh, private organizations, breeders have just gone up through the roof. You know, this time last year, shelters were overwhelmed. And now you can't-- there are no pets in the shelters. There are no pets at animal control because people are craving that love, craving something they can hug. Uh--

JOHN WHYTE: But is there a concern--

WILL DRAPER: --that-- that affection.

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah, but is there a concern when people start going back to work, it might be harder to take care of those pets that they otherwise were home for, you know, for many months? So do we have to be watchful for potential challenges there?

WILL DRAPER: Absolutely. You know, that is a concern that we have. What's going to happen when the dust clears and we get through this pandemic and back to whatever the new normal is? Will these pets start showing up, um, in those shelters again?

You know, a lot of, uh, parents are getting pets now, you know, for their children who always wanted a dog. And they just never found the time or found the-- the right time to do it. And now, suddenly, their kids are home all day. And they're getting this dog not only to give them some companionship, their kids, but also to give them a break from their kids.

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

WILL DRAPER: And they're teaching their kids how to take care of these pets. When they go back to school, um, there is a concern about, well, now that the kids are in school, nobody is taking care of the dog, that the parent may not have necessarily included in their day-to-day activity. Will they end up back in the shelter? We hope not.

Um, and-- and I actually-- we all try to talk, um, a lot more about animal care and long-term care with our clients who just are recent adopters, to hopefully help them be able to bridge that, um, gap, in a sense, once we get through this.

JOHN WHYTE: So a lot of misinformation about transmission in pets. On-- you mentioned about someone or something to hug. Is it safe to hug our pets, safe for us and for our pets? Is it safe to-- to kiss our pets? What-- what's the latest that we know about COVID and pets?

WILL DRAPER: You know, still there's no evidence that pets can transmit COVID or actually become ill from COVID. Of course, there have been situations where, uh, in animals, through nasal swabs, has tested positive for COVID-- you know, some cats and dogs.

But there is no evidence that the cat or dog will transmit that to, um, humans or other animals, you know. Because there is a slight-- you know, there's still a lot we don't know. But because there is a slight possibility that the virus can survive in-- in their, um, mucous membranes, nasal passages, there's also some thought that even just they could be a--

JOHN WHYTE: Yeah.

WILL DRAPER: --a-- a vector, if you will, by contact. If-- if you have COVID, it's recommended that you have somebody else care for your pet just in case, um, there's a possibility of that. Um, let somebody else take care of the pet for you while--

JOHN WHYTE: But if you don't ha--

WILL DRAPER: --you're ill.

JOHN WHYTE: But if you don't have COVID, OK to hug the dog?

WILL DRAPER: If you don't have COVID, you-- if you don't have COVID, absolutely OK to hug the dog. Hug them-- hug them away. That's the only thing you can hug right now.

JOHN WHYTE: And hug the cat if the cat wants to be hugged.

WILL DRAPER: Hug the cat if the cat wants to be hugged, exactly. Exactly.

JOHN WHYTE: All right. Well, Dr. Will Draper, I want to thank you for taking the time to share your insights today, to help provide, you know, what we can safely do, you know, with our pets, as well as what to be on the lookout for, you know, for our pets, you know, experiencing anxiety as well.

WILL DRAPER: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you for having me. And everybody stay safe and healthy out there. We'll-- we'll get through this.

JOHN WHYTE: And we'll look forward to your latest blog on WebMD. Thanks again.

WILL DRAPER: Thank you.

JOHN WHYTE: And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context.