Coronavirus and Your Pets

Can Your Pet Get COVID-19?

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 the coronavirus?

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

Can cats get the coronavirus?

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

Early studies have found that cats are the animals most likely to catch the new coronavirus. They can also show symptoms of COVID-19 and might be able to pass it to other cats.

New studies show that two domestic cats in the U.K. were infected with COVID-19. These cats got the virus from humans and had mild to severe respiratory symptoms.

Are any other types of pets at risk?

Ferrets can catch the coronavirus and might give it to other ferrets. But poultry and pigs don’t appear to be at risk.

Can I Get Coronavirus From My Pets?

There’s no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection.

Can My Pet Get Tested for Coronavirus?

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 the coronavirus. 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.

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How to Protect Both You and Your Pet

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.

What to Do if You’re Sick

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.

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What to Do if Your Pet Is Sick

If your pet tests positive for COVID-19, there’s no need to abandon them. But 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
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 23, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "COVID-19 & Animals," "COVID-19 Situation Summary," "Adopt These Healthy Pet Habits," "What to Do If You Are Sick," “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): If You Have Animals,” “If Your Pet Tests Positive.”

American Veterinary Medical Association: "COVID-19," “SARS-CoV-2 in animals, including pets.”

American Kennel Club: "Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?"

Animal Humane Society: "Respiratory Disease in Canines."

World Organisation for Animal Health: “Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “FAQ on Companion Animal Coronavirus Testing.”

EurekAlert: “Study uncovers human-to-cat transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

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