Small Mammals + Infectious Diseases

    • COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease of humans that was first discovered in late 2019. The illness is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, which is a new coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans. Certain animals can be infected by the COVID-19 virus, but it appears to be an infrequent occurrence. If you contract COVID-19, you will need to remain quarantined on your property which may make caring for dogs a bit more challenging. If you suspect that you may have COVID-19 (with or without a positive test result), you should minimize contact with your pets. Just as you would quarantine yourself from the other human members of your home while sick, you should also quarantine yourself from your pets. If you are hospitalized and your pets must be cared for by a boarding kennel or pet sitter, inform the kennel or pet sitter that you are ill, allowing them to take the necessary precautions.

    • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that person-to-person spread is the main source of infection. While there is evidence of transmission from humans to dogs and cats, it does not appear to be a common event at this time. If you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19, you should practice the same precautions with your pet as you would with people: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid cuddling and other close contact. If your pet needs veterinary care while you are sick with COVID-19, do not take your pet to your veterinary clinic yourself.

    • There are four major infectious diseases seen in pet rabbits. Myxomatosis is spread by bites from mosquitoes, flies, fur mites, and fleas and can also be acquired from injuries caused by contaminated thorns or thistles. Subcutaneous swelling extends around the eyes, ears, and genital region and can progress to skin hemorrhages, breathing difficulties, decreased to no appetite, fever, generalized skin tumors, and death. Viral hemorrhagic disease is transmitted by direct contact with infected rabbits, rodents, and contaminated cages, dishes, and clothing. If signs are present, they include decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, collapse, convulsions, coma, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, bloody nasal discharge, and death. Encephalitozoonosis causes a latent condition in rabbits. When signs do develop, the affected rabbit may develop dense white cataracts in one or both eyes, a head tilt, nystagmus, lack of appetite, difficulty walking, uncontrollable rolling over in one direction, tremors, and seizures. Pasteurellosis commonly causes abscesses, respiratory infections, and chronic inflammatory disease in rabbits. It can infect the nasolacrimal ducts, eyes, ears, and nose, and can cause abscesses of tooth roots, bones (particularly the jaw), skin, tissues under the skin, and internal organs.

    • As in humans, this is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a spirochete organism called Treponema cuniculi. It is a different spirochete from the human Treponema pallidium. Humans cannot get this particular organism from a rabbit.

    • **This article has been specifically written for pet sitters and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus. As a pet sitter, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated, wear a mask, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from your clients. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.