Coronavirus in Dogs and Cats: What You Need to Know

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The world is watching as the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads globally. Originating in Wuhan, China, the virus has since made its way around the world, with a number of cases here in the United States. In addition to concerns that humans may spread COVID-19 more quickly than it can be contained, many pet owners fear that their dogs or cats could catch coronavirus, too.

It’s understandable why pet owners all over the world might be worried about their dog or cat catching COVID-19. After all, a dog in Hong Kong tested “weak positive” for the virus last week and is quarantined until tests deem it completely clear of the virus. 

Don’t panic yet–there’s good news. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) both assert that there is no evidence your dog or cat can contract COVID-19. While it’s possible your pet may test positive, it doesn’t mean they have been infected. 

There have currently been no confirmed cases of a pet actually contracting COVID-19.

How could a pet test positive for COVID-19?

There are a few theories circulating as to how this might be able to happen. One possibility, according to CNN, is that the virus can live on items and surfaces. Therefore, it’s possible a pet could be exposed–and the virus could live on its fur for a short time. 

Currently, it is unknown how long the virus can live on a surface. The dog in question is currently being tested so researchers can learn more about how it may have been exposed. 

Could I catch coronavirus from my dog or cat? 

You’re not likely to catch COVID-19 from your dog or cat. According to the WHO: 

“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.”

WHO myth busters on coronavirus in dogs and cats

What’s more, your pet likely won’t be able to catch COVID-19 from you. According to the CDC, there are many strains of coronavirus, some of which infect humans and others which infect animals. The types of coronavirus your dog or cat might catch do not transmit to humans, or vice versa. 

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, people feared that dogs or cats could spread the illness. Although SARS was proven to have infected a small number of cats, there wasn’t adequate evidence the cats could pass the germ to humans. 

How can I protect myself and my pet from coronavirus? 

Jane Gray, chief veterinary surgeon of the Hong Kong SPCA, spoke with CNN about how to protect yourself and your pets from COVID-19. She said practicing basic hygiene is the most important protective measure humans can take to guard their health.

According to Gray and the WHO, if you’re a pet owner, you should:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands after petting or handling your dog or cat
  • Use an antimicrobial wipe to clean your dog’s paws after going for a walk (use sparingly)
  • Continue bathing and caring for your pet as usual

When it comes to protecting yourself from COVID-19, Gray said, “I’m far more concerned about myself catching it from a human being that has the disease.” 

What if my pet and I have to quarantine due to COVID-19?

If you–or, in an unlikely scenario, your pet–test positive for the novel coronavirus, you may be asked to quarantine yourself for about two weeks. This is a possibility for many families as the virus continues to spread, so consider stocking the following essentials in your home:

  • A one-month supply of your medications, essential wellness and self-care supplies, and any medications your pet may take
  • Two to four weeks’ worth of pantry staples and non-perishable food items
  • One month of pet food and essential supplies
  • One gallon of bottled water per day, per person and per pet in your home
  • A month’s worth of basic household supplies such as toilet paper, soap, detergent, shampoo, dish liquid, diapers, feminine hygiene products, etc.

A final word

Like every winter, please be vigilant and protect your health. Practice good hygiene, get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat healthy foods–and make sure your pet does the same.

For further reading, we’ve pulled together some important COVID-19 resources:

Stay healthy and safe, from our family to yours!

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