COVID-19 Webinar Q+A

Please find the Q+A portion of our webinar chats here.

Also, please note the following codes for attribution of answers:

  • JL: Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D, DACVIM, DABVP
  • JT: Jim Tedford

General

Are veterinary practices not officially considered essential places of work? I saw on one of the earlier Animal Welfare slides that they wanted to advocate for veterinary practices to be.
JL: In most jurisdictions vet clinics are considered essential, but not all servcies are essential.
I am a shelter vet and many of our intakes will not be from known Covid-positive households, but the virus is fairly widespread in our community and there is inadequate testing. I am wondering if we should treat each animal we intake as possibly exposed/fomite.
JL: This is not believed to be necessary.

Protection of staff

How to deal with animal welfare investigation when you are not permitted to go into people's home for human health and safety reason? What cases should be given priorities?
JT: Certainly those cases involving animals in imminent danger should be given priority. Officers should follow all safety protocols...same as managing any other potential human contact.
The recommendation to deliver pet food is directly contrary to the recommendation to keep people home and reduce staffing. Please clarify.\n\nIn addition, we are already seeing pet surrenders due to unemployment and inability to afford petfood. We are an open admissison shelter and cannot refuse surrenders. Please consider those situations in your recommendation to reduce or prevent surrenders.
JT: Most deliveries can be done "curb-side" honoring social distancing principles. In terms of owner surrenders, it would be adviseable to limit intakes to emergencies during this crisis. Offering pet owners alternatives in the short term and asking that they wait to relinquish pets until after the crisis passes and after shelters have worked through their backlogs of foster animals being returned, etc.

PPE

Do you have suggestions on conserving PPE (facemasks, gloves, etc)?
JL: Reuse what you have. Laundering cloth and autoclaving disposable PPE is acceptable in veterinary practice at this time.
Dr Levy, if an organization can use all re-usable supplies for PPE in surgery, do you still feel like we should be discontinuing this?
JL: The reason to discontune is mostly to protect the satff so they can #StaySafeAtHome. Every exception to social distancing decreases its efficacy and increases the number of infections and the burden on the health care faciltiies.
What PPE is being used in S/N that is being taken away from human healthcare? We have reuse cloth gowns, reuse caps, reuse surgical masks that don't protect the wearer from getting infected. Are they using surgical gloves for PPE in COVID treatment?
JL: Many veterinary clinics, including the specialty clinics at UF, are already being asked to share their PPE and ventilators with local hhumane hospitals. It will only get more dire every day. But the main reason to discontune is mostly to protect the satff so they can #StaySafeAtHome. Every exception to social distancing decreases its efficacy and increases the number of infections and the burden on the health care faciltiies.
are there any resources for making our own cloth surgical masks so that we can donate our surgical masks to local hospitals (and then use cloth masks made by volunteers for emergency surgeries)
JL: There are many videos and patterns on the internet.
What do you consider "appropriate PPE" gloves, masks, gowns, face shields etc? When brining in an animal and when handling an animal.
JL: For handling an animal from an exposed househols, a long-sleeve gown, gloves, and face protection (mouth, nose, eyes). The face protection is probably the least imprtat as far as we know at this time.

Shelter

Can you provide talking pts to those worried about the dog and cat number reductions in the Far East.
JT: Not certain I understand the question. There have thus far been two dogs (in HongKong) and one cat (in Belgium) that have tested postive for the virus. And there is still no indication that pets can transmit the virus to people. When one considers the number of human cases reported thus far versus the three companion animals, it puts things into perspective.
I am a full time shelter vet. What can i continue to do for my shelter/the community to stay busy/employed?
JT: There is certainly a need for trained personnel in those shelters who have not completely emptied out nor shut down altogether. And, there is a trend toward telemedicine for shelters (for adopted and foster animals). Most important is to keep yourself safe and prepared for the wave of work that will ensue when the pandemic passes.
JL: There may be some options developing, such as repurposing of staff to help in human healthcare (frightening to me, but the call is coming), becoming a telemedicine consultant, or standing up boarding clinics as a place to house animals from COVID exposed households or animals under bite quarantine to reduce the pressure on shelters.
I have heard rumors that some shelters are seeing an uptick in surrenders due to owners’ fears of contracting COVID-19 from their pets. Is there any substance to these rumors of increased surrenders?
JT: We are not hearing this...at least not yet. In fact, we've heard from more shelters that they are getting calls from people who are concerned about the risk of transmitting the virus TO their pets. This is a rapidly changing situation, but thus far we've seen a huge uptick in adoptions and foster home volunteers.
JL: We are not hearing that on our daily conference calls with shelter leaders across the countyr. There are anll numbers, but that is the exception.
Could humane societies not provide clients with costs to surrender pets especially during this covid-19 crisis? As many clients do not have the financial means to properly care for their pets, which may be why they have to surrender.
JT: Sounds like you're referring to relinquishment diversion. Certainly many shelters offer short-term assistance to help pet owners retain their pets (year-round and not just in response to the pandemic). Shelters provide access to veterinary care, behavior consultations, etc.
JL: Humane societies are rolling out safetly net programs to support keeping pets in their homes as a top priority (food, vet care, other help).
What about making exceptions for late term pregnant animals (with curb side drop off)?
JT: At this point, exceptions are being considered for intact male cats who will not succeed in adoptive or foster homes without it. Other exceptions would include animals that are suffering or in iminent risk of worsening health or death. Dr. Levy can expand upon this.
JL: It's not just about the public, but also the staff who have to come and work in close proximity when they are #SaferAtHome.
for your TNR you are stopping in your area, do you have multiple people from the public dropping off, or do you have 1 designated person that belongs to a group that focuses on TNR in certain areas?
JL: We have both high-volume trappers, other orgs that use us, as well as individuals.
Can you consider responding to a dog weaving in traffic a more emergent stray pick up? Although the dog is healthy, and non-aggressive, it poses that safety risk..
JT: I would imagine so. Common sense must prevail, but we must be certain that emergencies are true emergencies if we're willing to risk the health and safety of humans (our personnel and the public).
JL: That would be an emergency in the field, but potentially one that could be returned home without shelter admission if aggressive efforts to find the owne could be made in the field.
Is there advanced training you recommend for a DVM interested in shelter med?
JT: Check out Maddies Fund and The Association of Shelter Veterinarans for recommendations. There is tons of training available including shelter externships.
JL: Yes! Join the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the Facebook group ShelterMedicineVeterinarians to get started.
Does anyone have any information on how shelters are operating in cities/countries who are completely locked down (i.e. Italy)? Are staff still attending shelters and permitted to work?
JL: it varies, but yes, most still have limited staff to perform essential duties (not sure about Italy).
Why are some shelters allowed to euthanize just because they cant spay and neuter before adoption? Is there a special law that we can put in place or is in place to prevent this?
JT: I am not aware of shelters who perform euthanasia because they can't spay/neuter prior to adoption.
JL: In the US, there are generally no laws against euithanizing healthy pets. To do so is a policy decision that can be reversed. We do not agree with using euthanasia or prolonged shelter stay to address the currnet suspension of spay/neuter.

Quarintine / Possible esposure

With regards to segregating animals from covid homes from general populations in shelters for 14 days - how does this work for moving animals into foster homes? Do we have to wait to move them into foster for 14 days? Keep them in separate areas of the home for 14 days?
JL: We hear there is new guidance coming that will suggest the animals stay in the shelter and not go to foster before 14 days. However, that may change, as everything is changing every day.
If a shelter followed the previus guidelines and bathed an exposed dog, segregated for 3 days and then placed in population, then do we need to segregate dogs in contact with that dog for 14 days?
JL: We hear that new guidelines may drop the recommendaiton for bathing and replace it with a 14-hold in segregated housing.
What if we don't know the origin of the animal should we take the side of caution and bathe.
JL: That is believed to be unecessary.
What language or recommendations should be made to adopters of animals that may have been or were exposed to COVID-19?
JL: Go to https://www.animalsheltering.org/COVID19 for examples.
Can they elaborate on the potential 14 day quarantine of exposed pets???
JT: The new recommendations from the CDC are expected by 3/30/2020.
JL: We don’t have that informaiton yet.

Fostering

What are your basic requirements for those wanting to foster/home shelter pets?
JT: The primary concern is that the foster home have the facilities and basic understanding of pet care and animal behavior. The shelter will generally supply counsel and all necessary supplies.
JL: Basically a willingness to open their home to a pet. Check out new foster program procedures at https://www.animalsheltering.org/COVID19
Foster homes are a huge resource right now, but in order to keep animals moving that requires them to travel from their home to the shelter. How should we handle communicating that their travel is essential when picking up new animals? Both to government and to the public.
JL: Check out new procedures being developed at https://www.animalsheltering.org/COVID19. It involves moving more of the process online and doing cirbside no-touch handoffs.
Being that many states have initiated shelter in place orders. We are seeing cases of COVID-19 increase by the thousands each day and deaths as well. Today, I read that it’s being determined that the US is going to be the epicenter of of COVID-19. Is it responsible as animal welfare organizations putting our human population at risk by asking them to leave their homes and come to shelters to foster animals?
JT: In most cases shelters are very sensitive to human safety so these animals are being picked-up curbside or dropped off to foster homes.
JL: That's a reasonable question. We think we can develop safe procedures to minimize risk while still meeting this essential need, much like going to the grovery store is a new adventure.

Animal transportation

Do you suggest suspending rescue organizations who are transporting animals across state lines for adoption?
JT: Yes. The University of Wisconsin has developed a statement on this topic and many national organizations have endorsed that statement. Fundamentally we don't want to see any breaches in social distancing.
JL: Yes. We are only recommending intershelter transfer in the same community in order to increase social distancing and avoid spreading infection between communities.
Should animals still be transported from the south if there are foster networks in the north?
JT: Not at this time. It is painful to recommend against a strategy that has saved thousands of animal lives, but in the short term it cannot be justified.
JL: We believe this should cease for now and to focus instead on redcuing intake via essential servcies only and moving pets into foster/adoptions through mass marketing and more efficient processes.

Bathing

Should an antibactierial shampoo be used for bathing, or is any shampoo OK?
JL: Any shampoo (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
I've heard Dawn dish soap is good to bathe them. Is it? What type of detergent it safe for them as well? I've also heard to wipe down an animal with a hydrogen peroxide towel and then again in 5 days with hydrogen peroxide. It this true and why?
JL: Yes, Dawn is safe. It is used on waterfowl after oil spills. (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
Can they elaborate on exposed pet Bathing procedures (once, twice, any special detergent)?
JL: Once only, not special detergent/shampoo. (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
Could we spray or wipe a disinfectant on pets rather than bath to limit contact w them and aerosolizing it
JL: This is no longer recommended. (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
So there is NO recommandation to bathe dogs after daily walk when they come back home? (for the general population)
JL: Correct (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
I've heard from other sources of using wipes to clean down animals. Would wipes be a good substitute for animals who get stressed out from being bathed, and if so, what kind of wipes would you recommend? Hydrogen peroxide maybe?
JL: Wiping with disinfectant is no longer recommended. (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
Bathing animals after outside woals seems like an over-reaction, but what about shetlers bathing surrendered pets on intake (wiht regular shampoo)? Low risk of animals transmitting disease, but will it have a psychological benefit for shelter employees and potential adopters/temporary homes?
JL: Possibly, or alternatively, handling animals may make staff more nervous. (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)
What do you think about the advice of washing pets after walk? It seems to me that it will be unecessarily stressful + risk of areosol transmission during the bath
JL: Not recommended (The recommendation to bathe animals at all may soon be discontinued - stay tuned)

Spay/Neuter

Can you address how best to handle the lack of spay/neuter?
JL: The current recommendation is to adopt/foster with sterilizaiton agreements to have surgery performed after the cirsis is over. Te shelter and spay/neuter software companies have developed excellent tools for managing mass scheduling, reminders, and tracking to accommodate this. Hopefully the national funders will step up to help us catch up with this backlog.
if there is an on-site vet in the shelter, is it bad to go ahead and spay kittens returning from foster to go for adoption? (in our case it does not increase length of stay by more than 1-2 days)
JL: This is not recommended because it brings staff into close proximity with each other . The goal should be to reduce the number of staff coming to work, reduce the number of animals in the shelter that need care, and redcue social contact.
Can we make exceptions for neutering male cats that are urinary marking and therefore there is no humane option (holding, euthanasia) and no one will keep or take the animal in their home?
JL: There is general concensus to neuter males cats that belong to the shelter and that are going to foster/adoption because there is a high risk of failing in the placment if they are rleased intact and spray in the home. Neutering cats can be perfromed with minimal supplies and one persone can perform anesthesia and surgery, especially if injectable protocols are used, this minimizing staff interactions. However, we do not recommend opening up to the public for neutering.
RE: Pregnant cat spays- one time spay vs allowing cat to give birth in foster- neonatal kittens require higher level of intensive care and management, often require vet checks for failure to thrive, etc. Each time a foster parent returns to the shelter with neonatal kittens, we are increasing the incidents of exposure person:person. In regards to reducing risk of exposure to humans, it seems that placing pregnant cats in foster will undoubtedly cause MORE interactions and visits between fosters and vet staff. I’d like to explore the reasoning of forgoing spay vs proceeding, if this means using 1 set of sterile gloves (homemade masks) and preventing the increased level of care/interaction required with neonates.
JL: I get it. My heart breaks for this too. However most cats are pregnant this time of year. Neutering the males and spaying all the pregnant females is "business as usual." The experts tell us that human toll in this pandemic will be determined by the decisions we make today to #StaySafeAtHome. Spay/neuter is a tool of lifesaving, but we are too creative and resourceful to believe we cannot overcome in other ways, kitten season notwithstanding. Pausing spay/neuter is a gut punch, and it will have consequences – kittens will be born, revenue will fall, staff may be furloughed – but these pale in comparison to the alternative.
We are a humane society, but not a shelter. Our primary function is low cost spay/neuter/wellness. We are in a very low income area. Is it recommended we close our facility since we are primarily spay/neuter?
JL: Heartbreakingly, yes it is. There may be some options developing, such as reporposing of staff to help in human healthcare (frightening to me, but the call is coming), becoming a telemedicine consultant, or standing up boarding clinics as a place to house animals from COVID exposed households or animals under bite quarantine to reduce the pressure on shelters.
I too, was wondering about neutering as that does not require as much PPE. And it is really hard to get unaltered males into foster.....
JL: see above re: neutering
What does the shelter industry believe will be a realistic process for managing unaltered adopted pets? Have them come back to shelter (in the middle of kitten season)? Have them just pay for it themselves in private practice? Options?
JL: The current recommendation is to adopt/foster with sterilizaiton agreements to have surgery performed after the cirsis is over. Te shelter and spay/neuter software companies have developed excellent tools for managing mass scheduling, reminders, and tracking to accommodate this. Hopefully the national funders will step up to help us catch up with this backlog.
Dr. Levy - are we concerned that once we allow pets to be adopted without having been sterilized, this ideology will be difficult to undo from an adopter persepctive, once things are back to normal?
JL: I do not share this concern. Society as a whole, especailly people interested in animal welfare and visiting shelters to acquire their pets, are all on board with the spay/neuter mantra. They know this is an emergency and this procedure is on hold to keep them safe.
We feel that pain viscerally too, as a shelter, but have stopped elective surgeries. We are also rolling out "Don't Kitnap Kittens" this spring, just in time for all these kittens being born that would not have been.
JL: So glad to hear that. I have no words for how hard that decision is.

Misc. Treatment

can you talk about the tests that are being used, specificity and sensitivity
JL: Currently these data are not available since few exposed animals have been tested, the timing and method for testing have not been optimized, and positive controls are largely unavailable.
Dr. Levy is the protocol the same for cats and small mammals.
JL: The protocols are the same for cats, but I am unaware of small mammal protocols. In the absence of knowledge, I would treat them the same. Maybe check with AVMA?
Do you know for any guidelines for horses? ex. for exercice needs when owner are not allowed to go to the barn.
JL: I am unaware of equine protocols. In the absence of knowledge, I would treat them the same. Maybe check with AVMA?

Webinar presentation questions

Would you suggest that shelters also adhere to the red and white algorithm slide?
JL: Yes it applies in most circumstances, but there are some differences regarding reducing intake, identifying intake diversion community solutions, and having mandatory intake such as dangerous dogs.
Please post the AAWA mailchimp link again
JT: https://mailchi.mp/animalwelfaredigest/covid-19-daily-digest-for-animal-shelters-3-24-4783027?e=602302a765&fbclid=IwAR1w91zZcD_Cvg4lWNuRstA4leknLM1S3JTNixlpAIZ-W2outPrBHBFPv4Q
Can you put up that address for that daily newsletter agian please?
JT: https://mailchi.mp/animalwelfaredigest/covid-19-daily-digest-for-animal-shelters-3-24-4783027?e=602302a765&fbclid=IwAR1w91zZcD_Cvg4lWNuRstA4leknLM1S3JTNixlpAIZ-W2outPrBHBFPv4Q
JL: https://mailchi.mp/animalwelfaredigest/subscribe