In these uncertain times, false information can spread like wildfire. We know that you’re worried about the health of your family and friends - and that includes your pets. You may be wondering if your dog can get COVID-19, if you can spread COVID-19 to your dog, or if your dog can spread it to humans.
So we’ve collected information from reputable sources such as the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to address concerns about the risks associated with COVID-19 and your pets.
For starters, let’s recap what you likely already know about COVID-19:
In early March of 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) a pandemic. 1
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus that originated in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir. However, the exact source of this virus is unknown. 2
Is it possible for animals to become infected with COVID-19?
Yes, there have been cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19. More on that in a bit.
According to the CDC, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. 3
In other words, COVID-19 is primarily spreading from person-to-person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking.
But it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
The first case in the United States of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. 4 The zoo has been closed since mid-March, and the tiger began showing symptoms on March 27. Public health officials believe this tiger became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with the virus. This investigation is ongoing.
What about our four-legged friends in our homes?
Dogs can contract coronaviruses, most commonly the canine respiratory coronavirus. COVID-19 is not believed to be a health threat to dogs, but dogs can test positive for the virus. 5
A Pug named Winston in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is the first known case of a dog testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States. 6 Winston’s three human family members (two of whom are front-line health care workers) tested positive for COVID-19. Out of two dogs, a cat, and a lizard in the household, Winston was the only pet to test positive. Don’t worry - Winston experienced mild symptoms and has recovered.
Studies around the world 7 have been conducted on homes where humans and pets tested positive for COVID-19, and as of right now, there is no evidence that dogs and cats play a role in spreading the virus.
Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and USDA official, tells the Associated Press, 8 “There doesn’t appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of infection in the United States.”
The World Health Organization states, “There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.” Covering your face with a cloth face covering can also help reduce the possibility of spreading droplets.
How can dog owners protect their dogs from COVID-19?
Pet owners should follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal, including dogs and cats.
The CDC has a set of guidelines 9 for uninfected pet owners during this time:
“Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.”
And for pet owners who are infected with COVID-19:
“If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), you should restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people.
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
- If you are sick with COVID-19 and your pet becomes sick, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your veterinarian and let them know you have been sick with COVID-19. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care.”
There you have it. Stay safe out there folks!