In a time where many people have questions about their health and safety concerning the coronavirus, families are also worried about how the coronavirus could affect their pets. In addition to the common dog questions, such as can a dog catch human colds or human flu, and similar queries surrounding cats, one of the primary concerns veterinarians are encountering is if dogs and cats can catch the coronavirus (COVID-19).
We’ve spoken with two veterinarians on this subject and have the answers to the most common questions, related to the coronavirus and dogs and cats. Our knowledgeable experts include Dr. Vaishali Joshi, DVM, owner of Wagnolia Veterinary Clinic in Chicago, Illinois, and Dr. Jennifer Hopkins, practicing veterinarian throughout the Midwest.
Can Dogs Get/Spread the Coronavirus (COVID-19) From/To Humans or Other Pets?
Dr. Hopkins: At this time, there is no evidence that dogs can spread the coronavirus to people or other animals.
Dr. Joshi: There are no definitive reports of transmission of COVID-19 between humans and their pets in either direction.
In reference to the cat in Belgium that contracted COVID-19 from their owner, it is currently the only confirmed case of human to pet transmission. The cat exhibited respiratory symptoms similar to that of humans infected with COVID-10. Thankfully, the cat recovered nine days after they were tested.
More research will have to occur before we can determine if this could be an issue. Washing hands and avoiding saliva are good practices one can take if they are concerned about infecting their pet.
Can you tell us about your understanding of the dog in Hong Kong that tested “weak positive” for the virus? What does this mean for pet owners, if anything?
Dr. Hopkins: A “weak positive” result on this PCR test that was performed on the dog in Hong Kong means that there was a small amount of RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the type of coronavirus causing the COVID-19 outbreak). The type of test performed does not cross-react with other types of coronaviruses found in dogs, so it is sensitive and specific for the virus causing COVID-19. However, the test does not distinguish between the intact virus and just parts or fragments of the virus.
The testing was repeated several times and yielded consistent, low-level, or “weak positive” results. Experts from the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) believe that this may represent a case in which there is a low level of infection in the dog. However, the dog is not showing any signs of infection while in quarantine, and further testing is being conducted to determine if there is evidence of human transmission to dogs.
A single, isolated case should not be interpreted to mean that this is a definitive means of viral transmission, or that domestic pets can contract COVID-19 from their owners. In essence more evidence is needed to investigate this further. Infectious disease experts and organizations, including the CDC, OIE, and WHO, agree that at the current time, no evidence exists that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals or people.
Can cats get/spread coronavirus from/to humans or other pets?
Dr. Joshi: Per the CDC, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.
What is your advice for pet owners who are concerned about the virus affecting their pets?
Dr. Hopkins: As with other precautions regarding this virus, people infected with COVID-19 should limit their contact with animals as they would with other people for the duration of their illness. This is the recommendation of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) out of an abundance of caution since there is still much to learn about this disease and its transmission. As a reminder, there is only one confirmed case of a cat contracting COVID-19 from their owner. More research is needed to determine the likelihood of transmitting the virus to pets.
It is recommended to have other people take care of your pet if you are ill. In the cases in which you are the only one able to care for your pet, or it is a service animal, it is recommended to wear a facemask if possible and do not share bedding, dishes, food, etc. with your pet. Also, avoid kissing and close contact, and be sure to wash your hands after contact with your pet. It may be a good idea to prepare an emergency kit with two weeks worth of your pet’s food and necessary medications in case of quarantine or isolation.
Related: Pets can get stressed just like people do. Here are some ways to tell if your pet is stressed.
Dr. Joshi: The virus is affecting everyone’s day to day lives, some more than others. It’s important to be cognizant of your state’s public health guidelines as well as the CDC’s recommendations when it comes to keeping you and your pets safe. Make sure to continue your pet’s daily routine, including regular feeding, walks, and play. Some of the events surrounding COVID-19 are understandably scary, but they need not affect our interactions with our pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and local and regional veterinary medical associations are keeping their members informed of developments and guidelines as they pertain to COVID-19. Veterinarians and veterinary offices should stay apprised of these guidelines and practice accordingly.
How else can pets transmit the virus?
As of right now, the CDC states that pets cannot directly transmit COVID-19; however, it’s important to be aware of other ways in which pets could potentially be a carrier:
- Sanitize balls and toys: If neighbors or other relatives play with your dog or cat, make sure to sanitize all toys with a pet-safe cleaning solution and wash your hands after use.
- Wash hands after saliva: Does your dog or cat likes to lick extensively? If so, remember to wash your hands after they salivate on your hands or clothing.
- Clean leashes regularly: If someone has touched, you should clean and wash your hands after each use. Soak fabric leashes in soapy, hot water to eliminate any viruses or bacteria.
It’s good to be aware of who interacts with your pet while we navigate through these uncertain times. Even if pets cannot directly transmit COVID-19, saliva can harbor other bacteria you may want to avoid.
Are face masks for pets unnecessary, or do they help pets remain healthier?
Dr. Hopkins: I don’t find any support for the idea that facemasks are necessary for pets at this time. And there is not yet evidence that pets can display the COVID-19 illness even if there is a low level of infection, as in the case of the dog in Hong Kong.
Try to Remain Calm and Help Your Pets Do So, Too
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new hurdle that individuals are facing these days. The critical thing to remember is to try to stay as calm as possible. Remember that animals sense their owner’s stress and can get stressed out as well.
We ask that you contact your local veterinarian with questions pertaining to the Coronavirus or if your pet is in need of medical treatment.
Questions you can ask your vet:
- Can a dog catch human colds or the human flu?
- Can a cat catch the human flu?
- Can humans catch dog flu, dog colds, or the cat flu?
- Where can I find the most current and reliable information about COVID-19?
From all of us at Prudent Pet we wish you and your pet continued good health.