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Pets and COVID-19: Latest Information for Pet Parents

A note from our CEO and Founder 


Dear Friends,

At JustFoodForDogs, we aim to be more than just a brand. We are your committed partners in the health of your pets, and their well-being is our number one priority. With our team of 14 medical professionals, we consider ourselves a trusted wellness and nutrition authority, which comes with an increased responsibility to deliver accurate, evidence-based information to our partners in our pets’ lives. Therefore, surrounding COVID-19, we’d like to provide some facts and help where we can.

For starters, rest assured that the protocols for safety, hygiene, sanitation, and quality at JustFoodForDogs Kitchens are world-class. We not only have on-site, full-time food safety experts, we also employ third-party teams in these areas. All of these career professionals are focused on the same top priority: the well-being of the pets for whom we are fortunate enough to feed.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Oscar Chavez, Dr. John Tegzes, one of the country’s most renowned board-certified veterinary toxicologists, and the rest of our 14 doctor-strong veterinary team, are keeping a close watch on the situation and potential concerns as they relate to pet health. While a dog in Hong Kong tested a weak positive for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence pets can transmit the virus, or that the virus can be transmitted through food, packaging or shipped goods.

Our veterinary team also believes that, as with humans, dogs will better cope with exposure to any virus if they have a healthy immune system. Independent university studies demonstrated that JustFoodForDogs daily meals help to support a healthy immune system, as does our Skin and Allergy Care supplement, which contains immune-boosting oleuropein, an olive leaf extract.

We are providing complimentary sample packages of our Skin and Allergy Care supplement with online deliveries and offering 50% off 60-count packages, while supplies last.*

We want you to know that all of us here, especially our vet team, are working hard to stay on top of the information related to this disease and how it could affect our pets. If we have something meaningful to share, we will certainly do so, but of course, feel free to reach out to us if you have questions.

Shawn Buckley

Founder  

Carey Tischler

CEO



A message from our vet team

As partners in your pet's health, our goal is to ensure that pet parents are correctly informed. On Monday, our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Oscar Chavez, along with others on our vet team, sat down to answer some of your pressing questions regarding COVID-19 and its possible impact on your pets.

Updates

June 4, 2020

As partners in your pets’ health, we will continue to provide as accurate information as possible as we receive it so that you can stay safe and healthy with your pets. Earlier this month, on June 2, the USDA Veterinary Laboratory publicly confirmed the first case of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection in a pet dog in the U.S. While we had an earlier report of infection in a dog, a Pug named Winston, it actually proved not to be a true infection of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.







April 28, 2020

Earlier this week, it was reported that a pet dog tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in people. At JustFoodForDogs we have been consistent with our promise to provide updates on this subject. This is that update.

  • We continue to agree with the CDC and AVMA position is that there is no evidence of a human contracting the virus from pets. This is a human virus and pets are “dead-end” hosts to the virus.
  • A pet dog, a pug named Winston, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. This is the first dog to test positive in the US. ‘
  • Winston showed mild symptoms, whereas in the past the few dogs that have tested positive have not. This is likely because Winston is a pug, a brachiocephalic breed, with a higher than typical susceptibility to respiratory disease in general.
  • This result came from a study conducted at Duke University in which the mother, father, and son in the household all tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The McLeans family has four pets: Winston, another dog, a cat, and a lizard. The family said the dogs and cat were tested and only Winston tested positive. Winston was mildly sick for a few days and is doing much better.
  • As mentioned in a previous update, studies like this are being conducted by various veterinary research teams nationwide. Other sporadic cases are likely as the pandemic develops.

Our position at JustFoodForDogs remains that it is a very good sign that only a few cases of confirmed positives have occurred among pets, especially given multiple researchers and investigations. We recommend that you do not worry too much about contracting the virus from your pets as it is unlikely that they pose a threat to you. Practice social distancing, extend that distancing to your pets, and follow all of our other tips outlined in last week’s update to continue to ensure a happier and healthier life with your pets.

April 23, 2020 

We promised to keep you as updates as possible on any possible impact from COVID-19 on pets. Over the past few days, there have been reports the first two pet cats in the US testing positive for the virus, as well as additional large cats at the Bronx Zoo. It is important to emphasize these occurrences are still very rare or under very specific conditions and there is no evidence that pets play a role in the pandemic. As we stated weeks ago, some animals seem to serve as rare “dead-end hosts” meaning the virus dies in them and they are not a source of infection to people. No pets have died as a result of the virus that causes COVID-19.





Here’s what we still know:

  • While still very rare, cats and ferrets seem to be more susceptible to the virus and dogs are less frequently affected. All seem to recover fully.
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 in people was found in 2 pet cats in New York, from separate households. Both cats are expected to recover fully.
  • In both cases the cats are thought to have contracted the virus from a previously infected person in the household, or the environment (one cat was an outdoor cat).
  • Two confirmed pets in the US, and in NYC (the epicenter of infection), out of potentially thousands after all this time when laboratories and veterinarians are looking for it - is a very good sign. There may be a few more sporadic cases as the pandemic continues but we should be seeing these low numbers as confirmation that pet infections are rare and that pets pose very little risk to us.

Our message remains consistent with respect to coronavirus and pets:

  • If you practice social distancing from others and include your pets in the same way, there is essentially zero chance they will bring this virus into your household. This is not a virus that prefers pets. This is a human virus.
  • If you are infected, limit your contact with people and pets.
  • If your pet is already exposed, keep it him isolated with you.
  • If your pet is sick, call your veterinarian to see if he actually needs to be seen at a clinic.
  • If the pet of someone with COVID-19 has to go to a veterinary clinic for medical care, let the clinic know about the household status and take precautions to reduce the risk of exposing other people or animals.

Finally, there is also an update from The Bronx Zoo released yesterday about additional large cats testing positive for the virus. It is believed they caught it from their already infected handler. If you’re interested, I recommend visiting monitoring their website, but the conditions are very different in a zoo and we should not expect the same ‘spread’ among pets. In fact, in one of the cases of the 2 pet cats, there is another cat in the household that is still infection-free.

April 6, 2020

Yesterday, a tiger from the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. Our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Oscar Chavez, provides an update on what this means along with tips on how to continue to keep your pets safe.


March 30, 2020

No evidence exists do date (per the AVMA and CDC) that pets are acting as a source of infection to humans. All evidence suggests that the virus that causes COVID-19 binds to human cell receptors best and performs best in human cells. Human to human transmission remains the only documented form of transmission among people in this pandemic. Pets are not considered to be a source of infection, and in the rare chance that the cases in pets, discussed below, are determined to be confirmed infections, then 1) these occurrences are exceedingly rare (2 cases out of hundreds of thousands) and 2) the pets serve as likely “dead end” hosts; meaning the virus dies in them, and they are not a source of infection for humans. American Veterinary Medical Associate 

A cat in Belgium is reported to have tested positive for the virus, but investigations are still ongoing and there is still some doubt as to whether this is evidence of true infection. Unfortunately, some news outlets are reporting on this pre-maturely and causing possible confusion. ProMed International Society for Infection Disease 

A prominent veterinary laboratory, IDEXX, along with dozens of veterinarians and epidemiologists are monitoring for evidence of COVID19 in pets and have not been able to find it in over 4000 test cases, including samples South Korea and the US. IDEXX

There is no need to fear your pets as a possible source of infection at this time. In fact, pets are proving to be a source of comfort, companionship, loyalty and love during an otherwise uncertain time as pet adoptions are generally up nationwide. It is important that we continue to provide you with accurate, truthful information to avoid misunderstandings and the unnecessary abandonment of pets. NPR

Please read our article by Dr. Chavez on tips to avoid separation anxiety in pets once routines return.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety may be already present in a newly acquired pet’s history (ie., a shelter pet or newly adopted pet), as in some cases it may be the exact reason they were abandoned. However, it can also arise as a secondary or acquired condition, for example, when a dog is suddenly separated from his pet parent following a period of prolonged, constant or exclusive contact or a sudden change in routine. These dogs develop an overly intense attachment and may then be unable to cope with separation. Dogs that are already predisposed to anxiety (firework or storm phobia, for example) are more likely to develop separation anxiety under these circumstances.

Read more

Product Availability

Due to high demand, we are limiting our Rx meals for clients to ensure all pet parents have the prescription meal their pet needs. We are also limiting the sale of Pantry Fresh cases to a maximum of 5 per customer.

DIY Recipes 

You should always follow our recipes as written, however, we know that during these times you may have issues finding exact ingredients. We have put together the following substitution options to be used only short-term and as soon as you can you should return to following the recipes exactly as they are specifically balanced for long-term feeding.

  • Missing a vegetable? Just use a little more of whatever vegetables you do have.
  • Can’t find organ meat? Use more of the muscle meat in its place.
  • It’s fine to use a leaner version of ground protein (i.e. 90% lean ground beef instead of 85%).
  • Do not use more organ meats, especially liver, to make substitutions.
  • Use perch or tilapia if cod is unavailable.
  • If there are no food allergy concerns, you can swap these ingredients interchangeably: chicken breast or thigh, 94-99% lean ground turkey, 85-95% lean ground beef, perch, tilapia or cod.

If you need assistance, our Customer Service Team will be happy to answer any questions and assist you with your purchase at (949) 722-3647.

Store Hours and Information

Given the evolving situation, our store hours may be subject to change.

JustFoodForDogs is here for you and will continue to keep our doors open. We are inspired by the ways our customers and employees are working together through this difficult time. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we need to reduce the traffic inside our stores to keep our customers and employees safe. We have made the decision to offer will-call curbside pickup and free delivery (with $50 minimum purchase) at all of our stores.

To place an order, please call the store directly. To find a local kitchen or pantry near you, please use our store locator link. When you call, let us know if you’d like us to bring your order out to you, or if you’d like us to deliver it to your home. In either case, we are following a “no contact” protocol. Please let us know how you would like us to handle the order when you call.

Curbside Pickup

We can walk out to your car and place it in your trunk or back seat.

Same-day Delivery

We will simply set it outside the kitchen for pickup or outside your door for delivery.

Local Same Day Delivery

If you are local to one of our kitchens or pantries, we would like to extend free same-day delivery ($50 minimum order) within each location’s current delivery radius. To find a local kitchen or pantry near you, please use our store locator link.

Temporarily Closed Pantry Locations

We’re temporarily pausing operation of our JustFoodForDogs pantries in certain locations also beginning Wednesday, March 25. That decision was made in light of the COVID-19 crisis and our desire to mitigate potential exposure and transmission of the coronavirus. We’re also consolidating our inventory and operations at nearby JustFoodForDogs locations staffed to move larger volumes of product and where we have already implemented curbside “no touch” service.

We want to make clear that we are not closing these locations permanently, just pressing “pause.” At the earliest and most realistic opportunity, we plan to reopen the pantry and return to normal operations.

  • Pleasant Hill/Diablo
  • South Sacramento

Petco

Locations

Our Petco partners have updated their store hours: 10 am-6 pm.

Shipping

While we don't anticipate extended shipping delays, please be aware that this could change due to extremely high demand and product availability.

Covid-19 and Pets

Q & A with JustFoodForDogs Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Oscar Chavez

Q. Can our pets contract the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

A. There is no evidence that pets can contract the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 or that they can transmit it to humans. Both dogs and cats always have had their own specific types of coronaviruses, but there is no cross-species interaction and these viruses are completely distinct from the novel coronavirus currently affecting humans, which causes the disease COVID-19.

Q. But the NY Post posted an article about the dog in Hong Kong.

A. A dog in Hong Kong did test a weak positive on nasal and rectal swabs and was put into quarantine on 2/28 after his owner was found to be positive for the virus. Some Hong Kong officials worried that this could be evidence of virus transmission to the dog and put the dog into quarantine. International and US vets do not believe the dog ever had COVID-19 as it never developed any clinical signs and he tested negative on blood tests. Additional tests and studies around the world have failed to show that pets can be infected and transmit the disease. The Hong Kong dog later died at home on March 16th, 2020 after being released from a two-week quarantine. The dog was 17 years old and it is more likely that it succumbed to old age and the stress of being quarantined than it is that it died of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in people.

Q. What's the correct way to care for pets while social distancing?

A. During this time, I'm using the analogy that we should think of our pets as we would of our favorite teddy bears. Sure, you could take your favorite teddy bear with you everywhere you go: to the grocery store, every car ride, planes, visit with friends, etc. But if you do and especially if your favorite teddy bear is really cute, chances are you'll want to snuggle with him, show him off to others, etc. There's a high likelihood that other people may want to touch your favorite teddy bear, snuggle with it, or pick it up as well. All indications are that our pets cannot contract and transmit the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, however that doesn't mean that the virus cannot live temporarily on their fur/face/etc. For all these reasons, just like your favorite teddy bear, please leave your pets at home where they are safe and isolated from other people because any interaction between your pets and others starts to break down the social distancing we are trying to achieve.

Q. Should pet parents take their dogs for walks?

A. Yes, if local and state ordinances allow! Social distancing does not mean total isolation or even total quarantine. You may walk your dog, alone, or with a family member you already live with. You should only walk dogs from the same household, and you should avoid letting your dog interact with other dogs or people, for now. Not because there is a risk to them specifically, but rather to adhere to social distancing.

Q. Should pets' be groomed or cleaned more often?

A. Not necessarily. If there is no known novel coronavirus exposure in the household and no one in the home is sick, there is no need to adjust your regular grooming habits, unless you ordinarily have your dog groomed by a professional groomer. In the spirit of social distancing and for your own (human) protection, I'd recommend bathing your dog at home only during this time. This will help them avoid other peoples’ hands, faces, and possible coughs and sneezes which they could bring home to you (think about the favorite teddy bear example).

Q. Can I take my dog to the dog park or dog beach?

A. For now, no, it is not recommended but only because dog parks and beaches are also places where there are other people. Even if you keep your distance from other people, your dog could potentially serve as a social and physical bridge to them or their dogs.

Q. Should we think about making sure our dogs are socialized during this time, or just keep them at home?

A. Socialization is critical, not just for people, but for our pets as well. Estimates suggest that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has a Ro of 2 to 5, the average is 3. "Ro" is a measure of how contagious the virus is. This means that on average, a person infected with the virus will infect about 3 other people. Take the same precautions we are taking for ourselves right now. Follow are local and state ordinances. Socialize only with people and pets that you already live with or have chosen to remain in close contact with during this time. Ideally, these selected individuals and their dogs would be no more than 2-3 other humans and each of them should be following the exact same strict social isolation that you are.

Q. What about vet visits? Can I take my dog to the vet right now?

A. Like the human healthcare system right now, veterinary care is classified as an essential service in California and all related services (including food and JustFoodForDogs locations) are being asked to remain open. Veterinary hospitals are is being challenged by increased traffic and concerned pet parents. Veterinarians are also being affected by this crisis and some may need to stay home due to underlying conditions or because they themselves have become sick. This is causing some vet hospitals to be short-staffed and many have adopted biosecurity protocols to limit social interactions with humans. If you are uncertain if you should take your pet to the vet, call them beforehand and describe your pets’ condition to see if they recommend you going in. Be sure to ask if there are any special policies related to the novel coronavirus outbreak as some vet clinics remain open but may have closed their reception areas to avoid crowding.

Q. Although pets cannot become sick from COVID-19, could they serve as a conduit of infection between people?

Yes, it is true they can carry it on their fur if an infected person coughs, sneezes, or snuggles with their pet. They can serve as a bridge. This is called "fomite" in science. We completely share your concern about abandoned pets, but people look at us for truthful and real information. We feel it would be irresponsible not to let people know this. The important thing is to stay calm and get the message right. Here's the link to the University of Illinois.

Additional Resources

AVMA

CDC