Pet guide: Here’s how to take care of your pets during the COVID-19 lockdown
Our pet animals hold a special place in our hearts and they often know when we are feeling blue or down in the dumps. From distracting us when they see us sitting on the sofa in deep thought, to howling for a treat, bringing their toy ropes or balls to play or simply pacing up and down to go for a walk – they have many ways by which they try to catch our attention.
With the coronavirus pandemic affecting citizens globally, and keeping us in isolation and indoors, our pets are showering us with love, and making us feel less alone. Let us take the necessary precautions to make this lifestyle shift easier for them as well.
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender, Devanshi Shah, Founder and CEO of PetKonnect which aims to build a safe and loving environment for pets, discusses how we can be better pet parents to our animals, and how we can support them during this lockdown period.
YSW: With COVID-19 changing our lives over these last few weeks, how do you feel pets play a role in decreasing our anxiety and stress levels and helping us cope?
DS: It is an established fact that people with pets have better emotional health. This holds true during this phase of the lockdown.
I think one of the biggest hurdles most people are facing due to the quarantine is that they lack a sense of purpose at the moment.
Besides caring for themselves, and being on their gadgets, what else can they do if they can’t step out? This leads to a feeling of loneliness, isolation and despair.
People with pets, on the other hand, have a meaningful emotional bond with another creature and they need to be responsible for them. This gives them a sense of purpose and direction in their lives, regardless of whether they have an office job to do or not.
YSW: Can you tell us about PetKonnect?
DS: PetKonnect aims to create greater ease in ensuring that our animals have a safe, sanitised and loving environment to thrive in. I would urge people not to abandon their pets because they fear contracting the virus from their pets.
YSW: Have you always loved animals, is this one of the motivating reasons for launching PetKonnect?
DS: Yes, I’ve always been passionate about animals. However, my inspiration to begin PetKonnect was my late Havanese dog, Hazel.
In the short five years I had with Hazel, our bond became so strong that it became the driving force for PetKonnect, an initiative that was initiated to honour the memory of Hazel after she passed on. The idea is to enable all pet and animal caregivers to build a sanitary, safe and loving environment for their non-human charges.
I envision assisting pet parents in healthy parenting habits with the focus on pet inclusion and all-round care in society for animals.
YSW: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
DS: Before beginning PetKonnect, I completed a full-time MBA from the Imperial College Business School, London. Here, the focus of my programme was ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovative Problem Solving’.
I believe my overseas MBA outing enables me to be a better lead at PetKonnect and leverage the venture to become India’s biggest online pet and animal care services’ community.
YSW: What are some essential things we should know about our pets during this outbreak of COVID-19?
DS: The first is that the World Health Organisation has declared that there is no evidence to show your pets can transmit this disease to you. Secondly, your pet must undergo a sanitation protocol. They could pick up contaminated spores from infected surfaces outside your home, so please ensure they are clean when they walk in.
Also, your pets are likely to keep you active and engaged during the lockdown, so they are actually good for your wellbeing during this time.
YSW: How do we make life more comfortable for them?
DS: You can make them more comfortable by engaging with them. Ensure they get a little sunshine, fresh air and some indoor exercise.
Create an obstacle course for them indoors with household objects so they can work on their agility. Make DIY toys like a plastic tug bottle, or a ball-tug toy so you can enjoy a game of tug-of-war with them. Don’t let them overeat and teach them some new tricks.
YSW: What are some of the rules of hygiene we should follow as pet owners?
DS: A senior vet at the American vet charity PSDA claims the hygiene protocol even for pets is still important.
For example, if your pet is taken out, it could bring back the virus through its paws, which can infect the people in your home.
Please don’t skip sanitising them. Wipe their paws with disinfectant and brush their fur down thoroughly every time they come back from answering nature’s call.
If you are taking them outside to answer nature’s call, make them stand on a newspaper, and ensure they are not coming into contact with common-area surfaces like lift walls, or corridors where there is a chance for contamination.
YSW: Since a lot of dogs get taken to the dog park over the weekends, or for regular grooming and veterinary visits, how do we make sure to keep their spirits up indoors during these difficult times?
DS: You’d be surprised at how resilient pets are. You can take part in a number of activities like making improvised toys for them, as I mentioned earlier. Play ‘Fetch’ indoors, teach them to get things like the newspaper and do roll-overs.
A good way to start would be teaching them simple instructions like sit and stay, and gradually work your way into more complex tasks.
Pets don’t demand much – just your time. And the lockdown is a great opportunity to give them your undivided attention.
YSW: How do we make sure that we do not contract the virus and be careful when taking our dogs out for walks during lockdown?
DS: Have a stack of old papers handy if your dog is going outside to relieve itself. This way it won’t pick up dust or other potentially dangerous grime that could harm humans in any way.
Have its paws washed with warm water and soap, or a sanitiser, when it comes into your home from outside. Give your dog regular baths with hot water and check its nails for unusual growth or dirt. Be sure to wash up yourself afterwards.
YSW: If for any reason a pet is in need of emergency services what steps or precautionary measures do we take during the COVID-19 lockdown? Who do we contact?
DS: Your vet, of course. In fact, we at PetKonnect have just launched a 24hr Vet On-Call service so pet-parents can easily access vets whilst social distancing.
YSW: What is your advice to pet parents during these difficult times?
DS: The pace of modern life is such that we hardly get time with them. It’s a great way to emotionally detox and this lockdown will give you the opportunity to invest time in their upkeep and development in terms of learning new skills and tricks.
I think a lot of pet parents will come out of this lockdown with a better routine with their cats and dogs. It’s time to rebuild and reboot.
(Edited by Asha Chowdary)