Can Pets Get Coronavirus (COVID-19)? What Owners Should Know2020-05-28
This new world of social distancing, face masks, and worrying about the spread of the new Coronavirus is not an easy one to navigate. For many, this new world might be impossible to face without the support of our pets. These furry family members receive our adoration and love regularly – so concern over the spread of the virus and potential risk to animals is understandable.
Information continues to evolve and grow as cases emerge, testing capacity increases, and data is collected. The answer to the pet question has been asked from the start. The response has changed a few times since the beginning of this global pandemic.
Combine the natural concern with the overflow of information from various sources, and it is easy to see how stressful this situation is for pet owners. The bottom line is: can pets get COVID-19?
Can Pets Get Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, animals can get coronavirus, but the risk is limited.
A very small number of pets have become infected with the virus, mainly after contact with a person with COVID-19. At the time of the writing of this piece, some cats and dogs, and a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, have tested positive in the US. There are also a few other international cases of other dogs and cats testing positive for the coronavirus.
There is no evidence that the virus is widespread among cats or other types of animals despite the few isolated cases that have been reported. It appears that cats are more prone to catching COVID-19 than dogs, but this has only been seen in rare cases where they live in the homes of infected humans.
Canine coronavirus typically looks like a respiratory infection. A canine coronavirus vaccine already exists but is not effective against this new COVID-19 strain. Dogs in Hong Kong and North Carolina that have tested positive for the novel COVID-19 lived in homes with owners who also tested positive for the coronavirus. As a precaution, Hong Kong officials have begun testing all pets in the homes of infected people. Of those tests, only a small number ended up positive, suggesting transmission is difficult but not impossible.
So, in short, a minimal number of dogs and cats have tested positive for coronavirus, but they are isolated incidents.
What are the Pet Symptoms?
Recent testing in Hong Kong determined cats can spread the virus to other cats. However, only one in three exposed cats tested positive, suggesting transmission rates are low. It’s important to note that the infected domestic cats did not show symptoms. On the other hand, the infected tiger in the Bronx Zoo showed symptoms in the form of respiratory illness.
For animals that did show signs of being sick with COVID-19, they were typically sneezing, coughing, and had a lack of appetite. In one case in Belgium, a pet that tested positive also had diarrhea. Thus far, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to pets displaying symptoms of being sick with COVID-19.
Can Your Pet Spread Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The WHO has stated that there is a lack of evidence to prove that dogs, cats or other pets can transmit the disease. COVID-19 itself is spread through droplets from coughs of those already infected. The new coronavirus continues to spread from person to person, but there is currently no data to suggest it can pass from animal to human or animal to animal.
Coronavirus thrives on smooth surfaces, namely plastic or metal, so a pet’s fur tends to be safe to touch and is not thought to be a source of spreading the virus.
Do I Need to Protect My Pets from Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Currently, there is more we don’t know about coronavirus than what we do know, so protecting your pets involves necessary measures until more information is known. These measures are similar to the social distancing practices that have already been advised and implemented for humans. By following steps recommended by health officials, you will also be protecting yourself. These precautions include:
- Washing your hands
- Avoiding contact with sick people
- Avoiding other animals during walks or time outside
- Disinfecting your home regularly
- Wiping your pet down with grooming wipes after a walk or time outside
Face masks for dogs are not necessary for protection, so let that snout stay free on your walks.
These precautions will help keep you safe, and subsequently, your pet. Most information shows that, in rare cases, the disease passes from human to animal - so if you stay safe, your pet will be protected too.
Can I Walk My Dog?
Walks are essential for your dog’s daily physical activity and mental health. COVID-19 does not mean walking cannot happen, but it does change what a walk should look like.
The CDC suggests limiting interaction with your pet and other pets outside the home. When you walk your dog, maintain six feet from other animals, avoid close contact with people, and avoid public places. Do not let strangers pet your dog, even if they are wearing a face mask. Once you return from the walk, disinfect your hands.
Should My Pet Wear a Mask?
There are several images of pets with face coverings circulating on social media. However, this is not thought to be effective in protecting your pet from the virus, and could possibly cause your pet distress. The virus is passed on via droplets produced by infected people. If you as a responsible pet owner wear a mask and wash your hands properly, you will protect yourself and your pet.
What if I Test Positive for COVID-19?
If you or another member of your household tests positive for COVID-19, there are a few steps you can take to keep your pet safe.
If possible, isolate the animal from people with COVID-19 and avoid all close contact – avoid touching your pet, letting them lick you, or touching their food. If you cannot isolate from your pet, be sure to wear a face mask around them and wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet. If another family member can take the pet while you recover, that is the best solution.
If you think your pet has been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person, contact your vet but do not take them to the clinic. Your vet can consult via telehealth and determine if a test is necessary. They can also support you if your pet does end up becoming sick with COVID-19.
The focus of this article is on how to keep your pet safe from coronavirus, but much of the information applies to humans as well. Preventative safety measures also protect pet owners. Always consult professional sources for up-to-date and accurate information. Disease control and prevention begins with the help of individuals working towards a collective good.
We are learning more about coronavirus every day, and so this information will continue to evolve as we understand more about what causes COVID-19. Reputable resources include entities like the CDC and World Health Organization, as well as blog posts on sites like ESA Registration, who focus on animal well-being. The most important thing here is not to panic and stay informed throughout this pandemic.
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