In recent months, face masks have become an unfortunately familiar sight. Whether it’s due to poor Australian air quality caused by the fires, or fears of the coronavirus, it’s hard to walk down the street without spotting someone wearing one. Although, soon you might notice their pet sporting one too.
Since the coronavirus virus outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month, local retailers have noticed a huge surge in dog face mask sales. MailOnline writes that one Chinese e-commerce company, Taobao, is currently selling dog face masks at 10 times the normal rate. In China there was already some demand for pet face masks due to concerns over air pollution; but since January Taobao has gone from selling 150 pet face masks a month to 50 a day.
Stateside, Austin-based company K9 Mask have seen a similar trend. Their speciality dog face masks were designed to protect animals from dust, smoke, and bacteria. They work in the same way as human ones, the only difference is their shape. They’ve reported a 300% increase in sales with orders coming in from the U.S., China, Japan, and Australia.
What Do Dog Face Masks Do?
Speaking to the media, K9 Mask owner and founder Kirby Holmes said customers had been calling asking specifically if the masks would protect their pet against the virus. Adding that she’d already filled orders placed from Wuhan.
While they were designed with illness in mind, Kirby stresses the dog face masks can’t offer total protection: “We can’t 100 percent guarantee that it will protect your pet, all we can say is the filters were designed using the exact recommendation the CDC suggests for humans to wear to protect against bacteria.”
Speaking to the New York Times Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, chairwoman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said their impact may be overestimated: “Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask.”
The Coronavirus and Pets
In China, fears over pets and the virus have escalated since one of the nation’s top infectious diseases experts suggested they could be vulnerable. Speaking on the national TV broadcaster Li Lanjuan from China’s National Health Commission said: “In this epidemic season, pet owners should strengthen their management of their pets.”
The Commission also took to Weibo (China’s primary social media platform) to urge people to wash their hands after holding pets. Upsettingly, false information linking pets to the spread of the virus has also been disseminated on Weibo–causing panic and putting animals in danger of being abandoned.
Beware of Misinformation
Speaking to 7News, Ben Pearson from World Animal Protection has pushed for the Chinese government to “help stop the misinformation of a few local communities in their approach to dealing with companion animals”. He continued, there is “no evidence the coronavirus can be transmitted from domestic animals.” Finally calling for people to “continue to protect their animals until more is learnt on the transmission of the coronavirus.”
Despite concern inside China, the World Health Organization says there is no evidence suggesting pets could catch or spread the disease. Although they do agree: “it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.”
Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also released information stressing “there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick.” Speaking to Fox Business, Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease physician at Wake Forest Baptist Health explained further: “If there’s no coronavirus circulating in your community, even if your dog is susceptible it’s not going to get it. Pet owners can be reassured that dogs really don’t get it and the virus isn’t around for them to be exposed to.”
Basically, wear a mask if you like. Just don’t panic and remember, always wash your hands.
For more on looking after your pet.