Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Alternatives for Animal Handling: COVID-19

N-95 Masks

In most situations in animal shelters and veterinary clinics, N-95 masks are unnecessary. However, these masks are recommended for people entering areas known to be contaminated with COVID-19 (such as the homes of COVID-19 patients).

If commercial N-95 masks are available, they should be used in circumstances where risk of COVID-19 exposure is high.

If commercial N-95 masks are unavailable, here is a pattern for making them using Halyard H600 two-ply spun polypropylene, commonly used in surgical pack wrapping in human hospitals.

Since these handmade masks are made of autoclavable material, they can be reused if they are sterilized in the autoclave before and between uses.

Commercial N-95 reuse and conservation

While commercial N-95 masks are not labeled for reuse, here is some guidance for reuse during the COVID-19 pandemic

N-95 conservation strategies from the CDC for the COVID-19 pandemic:

Using N-95 masks (commercial or handmade):

The better the seal on the mask, the more effective it will be at filtering particles. If the fit of the mask is poor, then particles can travel around the edges of the mask to the mouth and nose. And remember that no PPE is a replacement for hygiene—wash hands often, and avoid touching the mask or your face.

Face Shields and Protection During Dentistry

Pet dentistry is one of the areas of veterinary medicine where a mask is often worn as a way to protect the veterinarian or technician rather than as a way to protect the patient. Many veterinarians wear surgical masks during dentistry, but even standard surgical masks are unlikely to filter out all the aerosolized particles. An option for better protection may be to use a face shield, perhaps in combination with a cloth or other handmade surgical mask.

How to make a plastic face shield:

It is also possible to make a plastic face shield using a two liter soda bottle:

Isolation Gowns

Isolation gowns are often used in animal care to prevent disease transmission between patients, and sometimes to prevent disease transmission between animals and humans. In most cases it is not necessary that the gowns provide a fluid barrier and thus fabric gowns are sufficient.

Fabric gowns

Do you have an army of seamstresses at the ready, looking to donate something useful to your shelter? Here are some fabric isolation gown patterns. The second link also includes an instructional video.

The barrier characteristics of the gowns will depend on the type of fabric used. A tighter weave fabric will offer a better barrier, but may also be hotter for the wearer. Lightweight fabric gowns will be sufficient for most animal shelter isolation areas.

Plastic isolation gowns

What if you have no seamstresses on hand, but you have a big roll of plastic? What if that parvo case is really messy? Look no further than a plastic isolation gown designed by a pediatrics clinic in Washington State:

Since these plastic gowns create a waterproof barrier, they could be a useful part of PPE for working with animals with known COVID-19 exposure or for entering COVID-19 households.

Last Resort – Trash Bag PPE

Other options for isolation gowns include garbage bags or plastic ponchos. Several online videos describe options for constructing PPE from trash bags.

Footwear

Rubber boots are commonly used as part of PPE for biosecurity in ambulatory veterinary practice and animal agriculture, and are also good options as waterproof, disinfectable PPE in animal shelters and small animal clinics. Rubber boots can be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with any of the disinfectants commonly used in shelters and veterinary practices.
Here are World Health Organization instructions for donning and doffing full PPE that includes rubber boots: