© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Pets Need Attention During the Pandemic, Too. OH Really?

photo of Higgins the dog
Every week before Ohio's stay-at-home order, Higgins from Sunbury would visit patients at a nearby elderly care facility. Now, his owner is wondering how to help him since he misses his human friends.

Ohio businesses continue to re-open this week, and you’ve still got questions about how coronavirus will affect everything from your pets to homeless people.

Kabir: This week we have two questions about pets. Specifically, cats and dogs.

Sarah: Our furry friends have probably been wondering why we’re home so much these days. But we actually got a question from an anonymous listener who wants to know if pets can transmit coronavirus.

Kabir: Dr. Erika Sobolewski at Summit County Public Health says it’s too soon to know for sure.

“I know they’re still working on it. There have been a few animals – I believe cats, in particular – who have tested positive for COVID-19 with very minimal symptoms. Again, another thing that is yet to really be seen.”

photo of Leanne Lilly
Dr. Leanne Lilly of Ohio State University says the first step when observing a behavior change in animals is to make sure it's not a larger medical issue.

Pet depression?
Sarah: Listener Denise Parker from Sunbury has been observing changes in her dog’s behavior. She says Higgins seems depressed because he can’t make the therapy visits he usually does to residents at The Inn at Walnut Trail.

“Prior to the stay-at-home order, each Wednesday afternoon when we arrived, residents would be waiting to meet us. The residents miss him and the feeling is mutual. At least Higgins can still play with his friends at doggy day care a few times a week.”

Kabir: I asked Dr. Leanne Lilly about this. She’s a professor of Veterinary Behaviorist with the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We don’t necessarily recognize depression as a clinical syndrome in cats and dogs. That said, it is an emotional and mental state that we do assign to pets depending on how they are responding to the world around them.

“The first rule when there’s a behavior change is to make sure there isn’t anything medical going on: decreased energy [and] decreased enjoyment in things can be sign of illness.

“If there are other things that your pets like to do, trying to increase the duration or frequency of those things. That can be hard given the limitations of social distancing, but usually there are other things dogs like to do aside from that one thing.”

Traffic and panhandlers
Sarah: Our next question is from John Duckworth of Coventry Township. He wants to know, “with all the traffic being down, I’m wondering how the panhandlers are making out.”

Kabir: I spoke with Mar-quetta Boddie, manager of Summit County’s Continuum of Care, about services for homeless people.

“I feel like people who are panhandling – most of them are still outside. We let them know the resources that

photo of Mar-quetta Boddie
Mar-quette Boddie, with the Summit County Continuum of Care, says even if homeless people decide not to enter a shelter, there are still resources available to them at the street outreach center.

are available to them. We do recommend to everyone who is outside to go into shelters. We can provide you a meal within the shelter; we have housing opportunities. If you’re going to be outside, and you choose not to go in, we recommend you go to our street outreach center [where] we can provide some sanitation products so you can stay safe and clean, get a shower, wash clothes, and things of that nature.”

Coronavirus exposure v. symptoms
Sarah: Up next, we received an anonymous question about exposure to COVID-19, wondering whether the greater your exposure, the greater your symptoms?

Kabir: Summit County Public Health answered this for us. Here’s Dr. Sobolweski.

“The degree of your symptoms doesn’t necessarily correlate with exposure. We don’t really understand how the virus works. Certainly in some people, they’re asymptomatic versus those who have very minor symptoms to those who end up in the hospital on a ventilator. There’s really still a lot unknown about that.”

Wayne County cases
Kabir: Finally this week, in Wayne County, Carolyn Robinson wants to know why her county has such a high per capita infection rate. I asked the Health Commissioner, Nicholas Cascarelli, for his thoughts.

“Early on, we’ve had a few documented outbreaks in nursing homes that contributed to that. And they still are a considerable portion of it. We [also] are a bedroom community for a lot of metro areas, which accounts for a lot of movement back and forth. This virus really doesn’t know geographic boundaries.”

Keep sending in your questions for “OH Really?”, and we’ll keep answering them.


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.
A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.