Veterinarians suggest keeping cats and dogs, especially kittens and puppies, indoors if they are not vaccinated.

Run out of pet food due for vaccination What pet owners can do during lockdown Pixabay
Coronavirus Coronavirus Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 17:25

Pets across the globe are happy and having fun — the quarantine and lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic means their owners too are cooped up at home and spend more time with them. But apart from worrying about groceries and other essentials for oneself, pet owners have to worry about  food and the well-being of their pets too.

Running out of food?

Fortunately, animal fodder is included as an essential item during the 21-day lockdown period. Many pet stores in Bengaluru received a special pass from the police and have opened a few branches, with restrictions in timings. However, customers have to go to the outlets and pick up pet feed and litter bags as these stores have suspended home delivery services.

This poses a challenge to several pet owners primarily due to the restrictions in the movement of vehicles on the road due to the lockdown. Some pet owners also do not have private vehicles, and cab services are not fully functional.

Besides, scores of urban pet owners depend on packet food. With the lockdown, the existing reserve of pet food is dwindling by the day. In such a scenario, what can pet owners do?

Sheetal Bhambri, an animal lover who runs Tiny Paws homestay for pets in Bengaluru, recommends home-cooked food for dogs and cats. "Curd rice, boiled vegetables, uttapam (without onions) and rotis with little ghee are some of the options. Use less salt in these dishes. Ensure not to feed them sweets and chocolates,” said Sheetal, who is currently feeding 34 dogs (mostly foster dogs) with home-cooked food.

Dr Amar, a Bengaluru-based veterinarian surgeon, suggests chicken with rice. “There is a lot of confusion over bird flu and hence people are reluctant to buy it. But these cases are not in and around Bengaluru. However, it is important to cook the chicken thoroughly before feeding the pets,” he told TNM.

Some owners who have been feeding their pets home-cooked food, on the other hand, have switched to packaged food. For example, due to the lack of chicken in Bengaluru, Kamakshi stocked up on pet food. “But I have not completely switched to the packet food. I still feed my dog rice and vegetables and one meal of packet food,” she said.

Dr Amar, who runs a pet clinic in Indiranagar, said in order to help senior citizens who own pets, he delivers food to their houses in case of emergency. An employee carries a special prescription that can be produced if stopped by the police. 

In case of a shortage of cat litter, sand and newspapers are some of the alternatives that many pet owners suggested.

Routine check-ups, vaccinations on hold

Vaccination, de-worming and routine check-ups are due for many pets. However, with the lockdown in place, can these be put on hold?

“If cats are indoors and not exposed to other cats or COVID-19 patients, the vaccination can be postponed. If dogs are vaccinated and dewormed, they can be taken out for a walk. If they are exposed to other dogs or strays before the vaccination, the walk outside should be avoided, especially for puppies who are susceptible to infections,” explained Dr Amar.

In case of emergency

Many pet clinics in the city are still open, albeit with reduced timings and limited veterinarians. “When I visited a pet clinic as my dog had a skin infection, there were only two doctors. One doctor was cleaning the surgery room and doubling as the receptionist as well. They were swamped with calls from pet owners, too,” said Kamakshi.

Some pet clinics have suspended consultation services and take only emergency surgeries. Visiting the clinic comes with certain guidelines for the pet owners. “Only one person per pet is allowed to enter the clinic. The owner must wear a mask. Hand sanitisers and hand wash are available at the clinic,” said a staff at the Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital.

In case of emergency consultation, some veterinarian doctors are willing to discuss the case with pet owners over the phone.

“Some pets that underwent surgeries last week are being brought in for dressing and further treatment. Besides, there is a small outbreak of canine parvovirus infection, which can affect kittens and puppies. Such pets are also brought in for regular drips,” said Dr Amar, adding that those who do not have their own vehicle can seek help from friends.

When reports surfaced that one could contract the virus from animals, some decided to abandon their pets on the streets. However, experts have told TNM that there is no evidence to say that pets transmit coronavirus to humans. “Such rumours could add to the challenges for a pet owner, who may face warnings or harassment from people who dislike pets,” added Dr Amar. 


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