Doctors across the United States are telling their patients to put off routine checkups and elective procedures to keep hospitals and clinics free to test and treat anyone who may have COVID-19.
This plea for patience and understanding is also coming from veterinarians, who treat pets of all kinds.
They are asking pet owners to forgo regular exams and minor surgery so animal hospitals can free up their equipment for redeployment to human hospitals.
Doctors say the same machines that keep animals healthy can be used on their owners.
“We buy at the same stores,” said Paul Lunn, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. “There’s no difference in the equipment.”
The school handed over two ventilators and hundreds of protective suits and masks to hospitals in and around Raleigh, the state capital.
There are 30 accredited veterinary hospitals across the country, and Lunn says there are more than 70 ventilators that can be pressed into service, if needed.
The animal hospitals also have examination rooms and operating theaters large enough to treat people.
No direct transmission from pets
There is no evidence that domestic animals such as dogs and cats can catch or directly transmit COVID-19 to humans.
A widely circulated story that a 17-year-old dog in Hong Kong died from the disease is false. The animal succumbed to old age and other health problems.
But if a human infected with the coronavirus pets a dog or cat, someone else can pick up the virus from the animal’s fur.
Many animal shelters and adoption centers around the United States have closed to practice social distancing until the pandemic subsides.
Chris Bombaugh, president and CEO of the Montgomery County Humane Society in Montgomery County, Maryland, said it has suspended all adoptions of dogs and cats.
She says the animals can sense that something is going on but are still getting lots of love and care from the staff.
For small animals lucky enough to have a home, Bombaugh recommends that people make arrangements for someone to take care of their pets and have a 14-day supply of food and medicine on hand if the coronavirus strikes.