Everyone is concerned for their families with the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and our pets are no exception. Here are some frequently asked questions about pets and coronavirus that have been summarized and answered by the Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and the CDC:
Can dogs get the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The World Health Organization currently advises that there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. The OIE states there is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this disease or that they become sick. The CDC also seconds that opinion, stating that, “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
If experts believe it is unlikely for a dog to get COVID-19, how have two dogs tested “positive” in Hong Kong?
The Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine reports, “These canine patients were in close contact with infected people, who were likely shedding large quantities of the virus. This led to the virus being in the dogs’ noses. There is no indication that the dogs became sick or showed any symptoms”
Although pets cannot become sick from COVID-19, could they serve as a conduit of infection between people?
The Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine says, “Yes. It is possible that a person with COVID-19 could sneeze or otherwise contaminate their pet, and then another individual could touch that animal and contract the disease. Veterinary experts believe the risk for transmission would be low. COVID-19 survives longer on hard, inanimate surfaces (e.g., glass, metal) than on soft surfaces (e.g., fur, cardboard). Nevertheless, animals living with sick individuals should be kept away from other people and animals (quarantined at home), just as people who live with sick individuals must avoid contact with others.”
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for dogs and cats?
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 for people or animals at this time.
Can veterinarians test for COVID-19 in pets?
Yes. As of March 15, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the College of Veterinary Medicine has the capability to test for the new COVID-19 in pets. The test request must be submitted by a veterinarian and must include the rationale for the test. Requests will then be sent to the state animal health officer and state public health veterinarian for approval on a case-by-case basis.
If I am diagnosed with COVID-19, how do I protect my pet?
Pets are at minimal risk of COVID-19 infection so there are no specific steps needed to protect them from infection. However, pets can have the virus ON THEM if they are in an environment with a large quantity of the virus and could serve to be a source of the virus for other people, including family members. The CDC recommends that you restrict contact with pets if you are sick with COVID-19, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. The CDC says, “Avoid snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must interact with your pet, wash your hands before and after, and wear a face mask.”