Putting masks on cats and dogs could prove fatal for them, experts warn against disturbing Instagram trend

Veterinarians issued a response after coming across several pictures of animals on social media whose owners put masks on them as a precaution against Covid-19


                            Putting masks on cats and dogs could prove fatal for them, experts warn against disturbing Instagram trend
(Getty Images)

Pet owners are warned not to put face masks on their cats or dogs in a bid to protect them from the novel coronavirus, as it could prove fatal for them. Veterinarians issued a response after coming across several pictures of animals on social media whose owners put masks on them as a precaution. The warning comes as some owners fear their beloved pets may contract the deadly contagion.

Fears were sparked after reports emerged of a pet cat testing positive for the coronavirus along with its owners in a first-of-its-kind case in the UK. Speaking to Yahoo News, Dr. Melissa Meehan, a vet based in Melbourne, Australia, said forcing masks on pets can result in them suffering stress and anxiety.

In the worst case scenario, cats and dogs could even die as they become stricken with distress, she said. “As a vet, I am constantly treating dogs and cats that suffer from stress and anxiety, which impacts on their health and mental wellbeing and also causing behavioral issues,” Dr. Meehan said. “Putting a mask on a dog or cat can absolutely cause distress.” According to her, masks impair a dog's breathing and “can increase their stress levels and could even be fatal, especially for brachycephalic breeds who already have difficulty breathing."

Face masks have become widely popular across the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite several health experts arguing they may not help people from contracting the virus. Daniel Andrews, the premier of the Australian state of Victoria, faced criticism sharing a picture of a dog in a mask. According to dog behaviorist and author Lara Shannon, it sends the "wrong message" even if it was meant to be a harmless or "fun photo."

"What is most concerning is the fact that the Office of Premier Daniel Andrews sent out an incorrect message by using a dog in a mask on their Facebook social media," she said. "I understand the importance of getting the message of wearing a mask out to the community and how to do so properly, however, not at the expense of pets."

“While it may appear as a seemingly innocent photo of a dog or cat, putting a mask on a pet is not the safe thing to do," she added.

It's interesting to note how people in China were seen purchasing face masks for their dogs even during the early days of the outbreak. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), several dogs and a cat have tested positive for COVID-19 after close contact with infected humans. Nonetheless, WOAH experts said more studies were being carried out to better understand "the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species."

"Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19," they added. "Human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person contact. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals have spread the disease."

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