COVID and pets: Owners on alert for dangers from masks, PPE

Published On September 30, 2020 | By Beatriz Baleeiro | COVID-19, News
A woman with a dog walks past a 2 metre social distancing marker on a footpath, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Galway, Ireland, September 25, 2020. (REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne)
Beatriz Baleeiro

Some pet owners fear more than a virus when walking their dogs, saying masks and gloves littered in public spaces could be a hazard for curious animals.

Cristiana Moretzsohn walks her dogs every day at the Grange Park in downtown Toronto and has noticed the littering of masks and gloves.

“Every time I take my pets for a walk I have to keep an eye out for masks, and I have two dogs so it’s even harder,” she said. “Lately I have only been allowing them to roam around in the off-leash area because it’s a little safer, but even there I’m careful.”

Dr. Scott Bainbridge, veterinarian at the Dundas West Animal Hospital, said “dogs eat anything, especially if it’s associated with our mouths. If they see us putting masks on all the time they think we are eating something so they can be attracted to that.”

Dr. Mark Kinghorn, a veterinarian at the Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic, said pet owners should call their vet right away if their pet consumes discarded personal protective equipment (PPE). In severe cases, the ingestion of a glove or mask could require immediate surgery.

“If the pet doesn’t vomit on his own, we have to induce the vomiting or it could pass through the intestines and get stuck inside the animal as a foreign body, causing an obstruction and profuse vomiting, inability to keep water or food down, and unwillingness to eat,” Kinghorn said.

Bainbridge advises pet owners to be careful with their own PPE at home since some masks have a metal wire in them to fit around the nose, which is another concern because it could pierce the intestine.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston has distributed a pamphlet warning pet owners about the hazard that wrongfully discarded PPE can have on their pets.

“PPE has become a way of life for all of us, however if not properly disposed of, masks, gloves, and other PPE may become life-threatening hazards, not only to domestic animals but to wildlife as well,” the organization said.

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