Q: Our animal-assisted therapy dogs visit a local hospital and two local nursing homes regularly. At the hospital, people who’ve had strokes or other neurologic illnesses receive therapy by playing with the dogs. And at the nursing homes, the dogs help people by putting smiles on their faces, even those too lost in dementia to typically smile. To avoid exposure to Ebola, out of an abundance of caution, we thought it best that our dogs stay home for a time. Don’t you agree? — S.G., via cyberspace
A: No, I absolutely do NOT think it’s best, and I propose that your decision is based on an over-abundance of caution, if not downright panic.
So far, instances of Ebola have been extremely isolated in the U.S., and media reports keep us informed about the location of each person infected by the virus.
It’s true that dogs are also susceptible to Ebola, although they don’t actually get sick. No one yet knows how our best friends are able to muster an effective immune response, or if they can transmit the illness to other dogs or people.
We do know that there’s never been a case of Ebola in a companion animal in the U.S.
We also know that dogs (or people for that matter) can’t get Ebola just by going outdoors and breathing. I’m not certain I understand how your dogs (or you) might be exposed just by entering a hospital or nursing home. It would be one thing if there was a case of Ebola in the hospital or either nursing home you visit, but I assume that’s not the case.
I’ve participated in animal-assisted therapy myself and am aware of the valuable service dogs and their handlers provide. Now, without due cause, you want to pull the plug? And you’re not a lone – a few organizations have contacted me about halting their programs – at least for a time. In my opinion, I believe it is unfair to people who’d otherwise benefit by your presence.
Learn more and keep up to date regarding Ebola and the relationship or impact on companion animals, or food production animals via the American Veterinary Medical Association – and and their Ebola Virus Resource and Information Page.
©Steve Dale PetWorld LLC; Tribune Content Agency