In a worrying trend across social media: pet owners everywhere are dressing up their animals in anti-COVID face masks, a seemingly cute and innocent photo opportunity that could have potentially fatal consequences.
Reasons for taking snaps of masked moggies or pooches vary in intention, with some influencers aiming to send out an adorable but persuasive post about public health, while others are merely on a quest for likes or genuinely fearful their pet might contract the virus.
But whatever people’s reasoning, the reaction from veterinarians and animal experts have all been the same and many are now warning pet owners of the severe stress and anxiety face coverings can cause pets.
Why putting face masks on pets is dangerous
Despite there being rare and isolated cases of dogs and cats contracting coronavirus, there is currently almost no evidence suggesting they can pass the disease on to humans and so masking up a pup is still certainly not a necessary action.
However, in this age of mistrust, many pet owners are ignoring the lack of evidence and still covering up their pets to be on the safe side.
The vast majority though are merely donning their dalmatians in masks for likes and attention on their social media accounts, with many even using it as a photo opportunity to appeal to face covering and COVID sceptics.
But even if it looks really cute, it certainly isn’t clever and according to Melbourne Veterinarian Dr Melissa Meehan, forcing a dog in particular to wear a face mask could kill them in a worst-case scenario.
Speaking to Yahoo News, Dr Meehan said:
“As a vet, I am constantly treating dogs and cats that suffer from stress and anxiety, which impacts on their health and mental wellbeing and also causes behavioural issues,
“Putting a mask on a dog or cat can absolutely cause distress.”
Forcing an animal to wear such a covering over their face is, therefore, going to be very agitating for them and could cause them health issues if worn for long periods of time.
She also made it clear that masks can impair an animal’s breathing, “which can increase their stress levels and could even be fatal.”
This is especially true of certain breeds of dogs such as brachycephalic types who already typically suffer from breathing difficulties.
Adding a mask into the equation is only going to make the basic requirement to breathe even more of a struggle, putting their life at risk.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly a new trend either.
In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and various areas of China, plenty of people were photographed or filmed placing face masks on their beloved pets.
In their defence, the virus was still a very unknown quantity then and they were probably rightfully worried about the safety of their animals.
However, even though there is still much to be discovered, evidence that animals can spread the disease remains non-existent.
This means the current bombarding of mammals in masks on Instagram is cruel and harmful to pets and doesn’t actually do them or you any good.
So while we humans definitely should be campaigning to each other to all wear masks, our moggies and pooches shouldn’t have any part in the advertising.
We’d much rather see you in a mask than Rover!
Why pets don’t need to wear face masks
All over the globe, guidelines from various governments and scientists have promoted the wearing of masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, with some declaring it mandatory in closed public spaces.
For example, in the UK this week, face coverings were made compulsory in shops, supermarkets and on public transport, a rule many people have instantly adhered to.
In a woeful case of timing though, a pet cat also became the first case of its kind to test positive for coronavirus in the UK, sending many people into panic mode.
So even if people are merely uploading masked photos of pets for fun or because it’s ‘cute’, you may well be convincing other nervous and worried pet owners that popping a face covering on your pet is the done thing!
But although several cats and dogs have now tested positive for coronavirus around the world, it remains a rare occurrence.
It’s also important to note that each animal to contract the virus so far has displayed very low traces of it in their system and have also been unable to spread it to another human.
The World Organisation for Animal Health has stated that currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19,
Human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person contact and to date, there is no evidence that companion animals have spread the disease.
This means that the handful of pets who have been unlucky enough to catch the disease have done so from their owners, and not the other way round!
So if you’re truly worried about your pet catching coronavirus, it’s YOU who needs to wear a mask rather than them, as well as limit contact with them if you suspect you have symptoms.
Why would you ever want to hide away that adorable face anyway!?