Updated April 5, 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 established and new 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 cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
CDC Recommends Cloth Facemasks
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
The cloth face coverings recommended are NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
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?
On April 5th, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in one tiger at a zoo in New York. Read full USDA article.
While two dogs (Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Belgium and one in Hong Kong) living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected. To date the CDC has not received any reports of pets or livestock becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people. To date, all animal cases have had no or mild symptoms that resolved with supportive care.
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 cloth 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.
Should any animal showing signs of respiratory illness be tested?
USDA and CDC do not recommend routine testing of animals for this virus. 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 or federal public and animal health officials.
Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?
You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. More information is available on how to keep people and animals safe at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.
What should I do if I think my animal has the virus?
Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the household animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed a person sick with COVID-19, and if your animal is showing any signs of illness. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested will contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.