Coronavirus pandemic could negatively impact pets’ mental health, vet says


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The coronavirus pandemic isn’t just affecting the mental health of humans — it could negatively impact pets as well, according to one expert.

Veterinarian Dr. Chad Dodd said pets could begin to take on their owners’ anxiety as the shutdown around the globe continues for the foreseeable future, British news agency SWNS reports.

“Pets pick up subliminal messages and they are going to pick up on anxiety and stress,” Dodd said. “Anytime when there are changes in our daily routine, it’s going to disrupt our pets.”

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Dodd, who is based in St Petersburg, Fla., added that “pets live in the moment” and with their owners at home more, they will likely bond with their owners more. However, he cautions they can’t be an afterthought.

“But with mom and dad trying to work from home, let’s make sure that the pet doesn’t get overlooked,” Dodd explained. “Pets are going to be adjusting to the ‘new normal’ too.”

There is also the tendency to overfeed pets during the stay-at-home mandates in an effort to stop COVID-19, which Dodd says would be detrimental.

“Some owners have indulged their pets with toys that involve food like puzzle feeders,” he continued. “One of my concerns is that you might end up overfeeding your pet in these times.”

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However, there are many benefits to having more time with your pets during the crisis — and it’s not just them coming into view on video conference calls.

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“Studies show that pets can lower blood pressure in their owners,” Dodd said. “Pets can be great comforters – they can actually improve their owners’ health and decrease their stress levels. We definitely encourage people, if they are healthy, to cuddle their pets.”

Not only are pets being used for comfort during the crisis, but they may also help flatten the curve. In the U.K., dogs are being trained to see if they sniff out people who have COVID-19.

As of Thursday morning, more than 952,000 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, including more than 216,000 of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.

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