Can My Pet Give Me Coronavirus?

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on January 03, 2024
5 min read

You may have heard that coronaviruses can infect animals and wondered whether your pets could get COVID-19--or pass the virus to you.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and some, like canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals.

In rare cases, a coronavirus jumps from animals to humans. A small number of pets have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This is thought to have also happened with two other types of deadly coronaviruses, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). All three originated in bats.

Most pets with COVID-19 only had mild symptoms. Some didn't show any symptoms at all. Serious illness in pets seems to be extremely rare.

Can dogs get COVID-19?

There are a few reports of dogs being infected. Experts believe that the pets caught COVID-19 from close contact with people who had it.

Can cats get COVID-19?

A few cats have tested positive for COVID-19 after they came into contact with people who were infected. They include pet cats and zoo cats.

Cats are the animals most likely to catch COVID-19. They can also show symptoms of COVID-19 and might be able to pass it on to other cats.

These cats appear to have had mild to severe respiratory symptoms.

Are any other types of pets at risk?

Ferrets can catch COVID-19 and might give it to other ferrets. But poultry and pigs don't appear to be at risk.

The risk of getting COVID-19 from your pet is low. While there have been reported cases of animals spreading the virus to humans, this is very rare. You are much more likely to get COVID-19 from another person than from your pet.

If your pet is sick, your veterinarian will check for more common conditions first. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises against wider animal testing for COVID-19. Local, state, and federal officials will decide whether a pet needs a COVID-19 test and choose a specialist to do it. Talk to your vet if you have questions or concerns.

If no one in your house has symptoms of COVID-19, you don't have to do anything different. You can go for walks with your pets, feed them, and play with them.

It's fine to touch your pet's fur. The virus is more likely to survive and spread on countertops and doorknobs, while pet fur is thought to absorb and trap germs.

Just remember that all animals can still carry other germs that can make you sick. So it's important to practice good hygiene with them. This will also reduce any risk of spreading COVID-19. Here's how:

  • Wash your hands after you pet them, feed them, or handle their waste.
  • Get rid of their poop, whether it's in the house, yard, or another public spot.
  • Don't kiss them or let them lick you.
  • When your pet comes in from outside, wipe their paws with a paw cleaner or paw wipes.
  • Clean their food and water bowls, bedding, and toys regularly.
  • If your pet seems sick -- for example, with a hacking cough--call your vet. There are other diseases, like "kennel cough," that can cause coughing and wheezing.
  • If you can, take walks with your dog. Exercise is important for both humans and canines. Check local rules to make sure certain spaces, like hiking trails and parks, are open and that there aren't curfews. Follow social distancing measures by walking your dog in less-crowded areas.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in a separate room away from others. This includes pets.

Have someone else in your home take care of your pets. If you live alone, wash your hands before and after you feed them. Don't pet, hug, or kiss them or let them lick you.

You can snuggle safely with them again once:

  • It's been at least a week since your symptoms started.
  • Your symptoms are better.
  • You've had 3 days in a row of no fever without using fever-reducing medicines.

If your pet tests positive for COVID-19, your veterinarian might suggest keeping them at home unless they need medical care. Pets should never wear a mask. Don't attempt to put a mask on any animal.

Keep your pets away from other people and animals in your home. If possible, put them in a “sick room” where they can stay isolated, such as a laundry room or bathroom.

Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning their area. Clean and disinfect their bowls, toys, bedding, and other items. Always wash your hands after cleaning up after your pet.

Keep your veterinarian updated, and let them know right away if your pet has new symptoms or is getting worse. Call before bringing them into the clinic.

Experts are still learning how COVID-19 affects animals. Even if your pet seems to be doing better, avoid public activities with them until:

  • Your veterinarian or public health official says it's OK to end isolation.
  • Your pet hasn't shown symptoms for at least 72 hours (without any medical care) and it has been at least 14 days since the last positive test or all follow-up tests for COVID-19 are negative.

It's possible for people to spread COVID-19 to pets, and for pets to spread the virus to humans, but the risk is low. If you have COVID-19, do your best to avoid your pet. If you think your pet may have COVID-19, ask your veterinarian how to best care for them.

Should you avoid your pets if you have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19, avoid your pets until your symptoms improve. If you live alone and no one else can care for them, wash your hands before and after feeding your pet. Don't play with or cuddle your pets until your symptoms have improved.