Although the Centers for disease control hasn’t identified the exact source of the current outbreak of COVID-19, we know that it originally came from an animal, most likely a bat. As a result, many people have wondered if they need to worry about their pets carrying or transmitting the virus to them.
The CDC has assured the public that there is minimal risk to humans from their pets. Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says, “There have really only been a handful of known domestic animal infections in the entire world. There are reports of a few cats in China, and two dogs tested positive there, too.” While pets worldwide have tested positive, the majority became sick after contact with humans with COVID-19.
Buddy, a German Shepherd, became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On July 11, Buddy died. Veterinarians found that Buddy likely had lymphoma, though it’s unclear whether cancer made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, if the virus was responsible for any of his symptoms, or if it was a tragic coincidence. According to the USDA, less than 75 animals have tested positive, with a small number of these cases diagnosed in pets.
While public health officials acknowledge they are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus here in the United States. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected,” says the CDC.
If you have concerns about your pet contracting COVID-19, the CDC recommends the following measures:
- Don’t allow pets to interact with people or other animals outside your household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Keep pets on a leash when outside, maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
- Don’t allow people outside your household to touch your pet when you are out in public.
If you or another member of your household displays COVID-19 symptoms, limit contact with your pets and other animals, just as you would with people.
- If at all possible, have another member of your household take care of your pets while sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, licking, and sharing food or bedding.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.
It’s important to note that animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans.
For more information on animals and COVID-19, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html
For more information about testing in animals, see: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/faq-public-on-companion-animal-testing.pdf