A very small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with Covid-19 in several countries although there is no evidence that they can transmit the virus to humans.

But according to veterinarian and influencer Dr. Leatrize Gonzales, it is still better to keep Covid-infected pets in quarantine during the pandemic.

"The strains of coronavirus for dogs, cats and humans are totally different. The common effect of coronavirus on dogs is diarrhea. For cats, they have what is called feline infectious peritonitis. For humans, the mode of transmission is different, and the effects are different as well," Gonzales said during The Manila Times Pet Show and Forum last Thursday..

"This is the reason why it is better for them to also do quarantine because they too can still be infected. While there are still no studies that a pet can infect their owners, it is still important for them to be cleaned regularly especially if they roam outside their homes. There are non-harmful disinfectants available for pets over online app stores. But the best way to disinfect them is to bathe them with warm water. Since we're cautious about our hygiene as humans, let's also include our pets," Gonzales said.

It is important for fur parents to provide their pets not only with the basic necessities such as food, shelter and affection, but health essentials as well such as a regular visit for vaccination, deworming and regular checkup.

"When your pet gets a viral infection, there is no specific cure. The only treatment is supportive care. We can prevent viral diseases when you get them vaccinated. You can also save money when you do that than having them confined," Gonzales said.

"Vaccination can be done as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age. Puppies and kittens already have maternal immunity from their mothers. But as time goes by, it will disappear and they can be easily exposed to sickness - the reason why it is also important for them to get booster shots," she said.

Among the guests in the forum who shared their stories in caring for their fur babies are Jelai Andres, actress and ambassador of Pawssion Project, and Yassi Pressman, actress and animal rights advocate.

"One of our advocacy in Pawssion Project is the 'Adopt, don't shop' campaign. We want to be the voice for the voiceless, especially when it comes to stray animals. I want the people to give stray animals a chance because they also deserve love, affection and family. And if you don't want to adopt, do not hurt them," said Andres, who has 14 cats and five dogs under her care.

"Pets help ease loneliness, anxiety and depression, and I am a testament to that. I also visit Pawssion Project; I bring food to the rescued animals and have a party with them. I feel easy and at peace when I'm with them," she said.

Pawssion Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue rehabilitation and rehoming of dogs in distress. It was founded in October 2018 by Malou Perez, who started with saving 50 dogs scheduled for euthanasia at the Bacolod City Pound.

The group has opened a second shelter in Bulacan in 2019. Since then, it has rescued 1,000 dogs and found homes for over 500 former strays.

Elena Bantigue, rescuing and partners committee head of Pawssion Project, said that aside from rescuing and rehoming abandoned animals, the group is aiming for a nationwide attainment of the Five Freedoms among both owned pets and stray animals. These are the freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition; the freedom from fear and distress; the freedom to express normal behavior for the species; the freedom from discomfort; and the freedom from pain, injury and disease.

"Fighting for the voiceless is not without challenges. We have a long way to go in achieving our goals for our furry companions. Honestly, we don't get any funding from the government and private companies; it's all based on donations, so there's the lack of support and insufficient resources," Bantigue said.

"Another struggle we have is the deficiencies in the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act because this is still from 2008 and it really needs revisions. We're hoping to get the support from the Bureau of Animal Industry. They're doing their best and we hope to join hands with them soon," she said.