COVID-19: Guidance on pets and long-term care homes
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Pets can provide many benefits, especially during times of stress. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, special consideration should be given to animals that reside in or visit long-term care homes (LTCHs), where COVID-19 may transmit more easily and people are at risk of more severe disease.
Basic best practices for animals in healthcare facilities should be followed, as applicable to LTCHs. Additionally, residents, staff, designated caregivers, and visitors should follow any guidance provided by the LTCH for managing pets in the facility, if available, and also refer to their provincial/territorial and local public health policies and regulations.
The following additional measures aim to include pets in the management of the risks for spreading COVID-19.
Pets living in a long-term care home
It is highly recommended to have a written plan in place for any animals in the care of the LTCH itself, such as:
- where in the facility the animal is allowed to go
- who is responsible for regular care (e.g., feeding, elimination activities)
- provision of veterinary care (both preventative and in case the animal becomes ill)
- for temporary removal from the facility if necessary
Additionally, if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at the LTCH:
- Inform residents, staff and designated caregivers about how to keep any pets in the facility safe.
- Any animal caregivers should follow similar precautions with pets as they would for interacting with people in the facility, including appropriate personal protective equipment and hand hygiene.
- Facility-owned pets should be confined to one area in the LTCH, so that they don't roam freely. Ensure that these animals do not have access to the rooms of residents with COVID-19 (or other infectious diseases). Resident-owned pets should remain with their owner if possible.
- If a pet was exposed to someone with COVID-19 and needs to be temporarily removed from the LTCH, follow the recommendations for caring for an exposed animal. Precautions should be taken for 14 days after the animal's last exposure to the facility. A pet can be returned to the facility as long as the animal is healthy.
- Generally, testing animals for SARS-CoV-2 (PDF), the virus that causes COVID-19, is not recommended.
- If a pet develops any signs of illness or you have questions about their management, contact your veterinarian.
Pets visiting a long-term care home
A clear policy regarding animal visitation should be in place, consistent with protocols for healthcare facility visitation. The types of animal visits should be individually addressed (for example, personal pets versus animal assisted [pet therapy] programs). If people are allowed to visit a facility, pets belonging to the same individuals may be considered as well, depending on the facility's animal visitation program.
- Ensure pets are healthy and have not been exposed to anyone who is required to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their visit.
- Practise good hygiene.
- Ensure everyone uses hand sanitizer or washes their hands before and after interacting with the animal.
- Avoid bringing any unnecessary items into the facility (for example, blankets or toys).
Animal visits should not be permitted if there is an ongoing outbreak at the facility.
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