Can your pets get infected with the new coronavirus? Can they infect you? Here’s what we know about pets and COVID-19.
With recent news reports of animals testing positive for the new coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness, you may be understandably worried about your furry friends at home. Here’s what we know so far and steps you can take to protect your beloved companion.
Can my cat or dog get COVID-19?
In some situations, yes. Several dogs and cats (domestic cats and a tiger) in contact with infected humans have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, ferrets appear to be susceptible to the infection. In experimental conditions, both cats and ferrets were able to transmit infection to other animals of the same species, but there is no evidence that these animals can transmit the disease to human and play a role in spreading COVID-19. Only a few of the animals who tested positive actually showed signs of illness.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in humans, while others can cause illness in certain animals.
SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is mainly spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when you cough, sneeze or talk.
But if you have it, it is technically possible for you to infect your pet. And this is what we’ve seen in most of the reported cases.
Can animals spread COVID-19 to humans?
It’s possible in theory, but there hasn’t been any evidence of animal-to-human spread thus far.
While it’s widely believed that COVID-19 originated from bats, we still don’t know the exact source of the new coronavirus.
With the evidence we have right now, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is considered low. Humans appear to pose more risk to their pets than they do to us.
Until we know more about the new coronavirus, the CDC advises taking steps to protect yourself – and your pets.
How you can protect your pets from coronavirus
If you’re sick with either suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should avoid contact with your pets as much as possible. While sick, take the following steps to help protect your pet:
- Have another member of your household care for your pet (if possible).
- If you have to care for your pet while you’re sick, wear a face mask and wash your hands before and after caring for them.
- Avoid any contact with your pet, including petting, allowing them to lick you and letting your pet snuggle or sleep in bed with you.
Other ways you can protect your pets:
- Practice social (physical) distancing. Don’t let them interact with anyone outside of your household.
- Keep cats inside, if possible.
- While walking your dog, keep them on a leash and at least 6 feet away from other pets and humans.
- Avoid dog parks or large gatherings with other people and pets.
What to do if your pet is sick
If you’re sick and your pet is showing signs of illness, it’s advised that you call your veterinarian first for care recommendations. Be sure to let them know that you have COVID-19, so proper precautions can be taken while getting your pet the treatment they may need.
Findings from laboratory studies suggest that, of the animal species investigated so far, cats are the most susceptible species for SARS-CoV-2, and cats can be affected with clinical disease. In an experimental laboratory setting cats were able to transmit infection to other cats. In the laboratory setting ferrets were susceptible to infection and able to transmit infection to other ferrets, although they appear to be less affected by clinical disease. Ferrets might serve as a useful model for future studies e.g. to evaluate vaccines or therapeutics. Golden Syrian hamsters, as well as cynomolgus and rhesus macaques can be consistently infected by SARS-CoV-2 and may show clinical signs. Dogs appear to be susceptible to infection but appear to be less affected than ferrets or cats. Egyptian fruit bats were also infected in the laboratory setting but did not show signs of disease. The infected fruit bats were able to transmit infection to other fruit bats.
To be clear, the current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that animals play an epidemiologically relevant role in spreading the human disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures directed at animals, particularly companion animals, which may compromise their welfare.
The risk of your pet getting COVID-19 is low. Practicing common prevention measures can help protect your pet, yourself and others from getting sick.