Updated March 20, 2020
How to Best Protect Your Pet
- Stay home and follow social distancing orders from authorities. Studies show COVID-19 is often spread by those who are not yet showing symptoms of disease. Consider yourself infected and take the proper precautions to protect your community.
- DO NOT take your pet to a veterinary clinic for wellness visits, vaccinations, or elective procedures (such as spay/neuter) that may be safely delayed for a few months.
- If you are concerned with your pet’s health issue, CALL YOUR VET. Many vets are practicing telemedicine with their established clients and patients, and will be able to make a tentative diagnosis and prescribe medication over the phone or after an online consult.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized, you can still safely care for your pet. Practice good hygiene practices by washing your hands before and after interacting with your pet, not kissing or sharing food with your pet, and avoiding close contact (hugging, sleeping together). If possible, wear a facemask to reduce your spread of virus particles.
Make a Plan for Your Pet
- You should identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if you need to be hospitalized.
- Have an appropriate carrier/crate for each pet, and enough food, medication, and supplies for at least two weeks.
- Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is ideal.
- Pets should have identification: Collar with ID tag and microchip.
COVID-19 and Pets
- Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
- If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
- Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or must care for your pet, wear a facemask if possible; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
General information about COVID-19:
- The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
- Person-to-person and community spread has been reported in numerous countries, including the United States.
- Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, door knobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
- There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available.
- Cases of COVID-19 and community spread are being reported in most states.
- The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.
Have Any Pets Been Infected with COVID-19?
Dog in Hong Kong: On Thursday, February 27, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) reported that samples obtained on February 26 from the nasal and oral cavities of a pet dog (a 17-year-old Pomeranian whose owner had been diagnosed with COVID-19) had tested “weak positive” for SARS-CoV-2, using a real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) test. A fecal sample was negative. The RT PCR test is sensitive, specific, and does not cross-react with other coronaviruses of dogs or cats. A “weak positive” result suggests a small quantity of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was present in the samples, but does not distinguish between RNA detected from intact virus and fragments of RNA. PCR testing was repeated on February 28, March 2, 3, 5, and 10 with continued “weak positive” results. In addition, gene sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the dog and its close human contacts was completed on March 12 and the viral sequences were very similar. A virus isolation test conducted on March 12 was negative. Experts from the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong believe the consistency and persistence of the results suggest the virus may have spread from the infected people to the dog in this particular case. Testing was conducted by the laboratories of the AFCD and the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong. The latter is an accredited reference laboratory for the WHO for the testing of SARS-COV-2. This pet dog was one of two pet dogs under quarantine. The second pet dog had negative results of tests for the virus. Neither dog showed any signs of being ill with COVID-19. Unfortunately, the dog that tested positive passed away on March 16. The dog was 17 years old and had ongoing health issues that were likely responsible for the death of this dog, rather than COVID-19. We are told the second pet dog has been released from quarantine. On March 19, the AFCD reported that a third dog, a German Shepherd Dog living with an owner testing positive for COVID-19, had also tested positive. Another mixed-breed dog from the same residence tested negative. Neither dog has shown signs of disease. Both dogs are in quarantine and are continuing to be monitored and tested.
Testing of companion animals: To date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill, and there is no evidence that domestic animals, including pets, can spread SARS-CoV-2. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state, and federal animal and public health officials.
After the decision is made to test, state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA-accredited veterinarian, or foreign animal disease diagnostician to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sample collection methods.
Again, current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2, except by official order. If dogs or cats present with respiratory signs, veterinarians should test for more common respiratory pathogens.
Pets in homes with owners with COVID-19: Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you are ill with COVID-19 have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.
Keeping pets safe: For responsible pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.
While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that, to date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill with SARS-CoV-2, and there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.