What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus, SARSCoV-2, that has not previously been identified. This virus is not the same coronavirus that can cause the common cold in humans, nor is it the same as canine coronavirus (CCoV).
Can my pet be affected by COVID-19?
At this time, there is no evidence that any animal or pet can infect humans with the new coronavirus. Additionally, no animals to date have been reported to be sick with COVID-19. There was a single case of a dog testing positive for the new coronavirus; however, this dog has remained healthy and the positive result may be due to environmental contamination from the infected owner. In other words, the virus may have been present in the dog’s nose the same way the virus was likely present on other surfaces in the household.
It is important to note that the test used is very sensitive and can detect very small fragments of the virus; it does not indicate that the virus was intact or contagious. No other cases of pets testing positive have been reported at this time. Further blood testing is being performed to evaluate if this dog is truly infected. If this blood test is positive, this would be a case of human to animal transmission of the new coronavirus; however, this would not be evidence that an animal can infect others.
To date, there has been no testing in cats, though it is likely that cats have been exposed through infected owners, and COVID-19 has not been reported in farm animals, such as horses, donkeys, goats, and other kinds of livestock. Because this is a new virus and information is still being collected, as a precaution, restrict contact with your pets if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. If this is not possible, practice good hygiene and wash your hands before and after touching your pet, avoid close contact, and wear a facemask.
How is it transmitted?
Current evidence suggests that person-to-person spread is the main source of infection. This occurs through respiratory droplets created when an infected person sneezes or coughs. There is also a possibility of spread via objects or surfaces that have been exposed to the virus; however, this is not suspected as a main source of infection.
Should I monitor my pet for any signs?
Because there have not been any documented cases of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, there are no specific recommendations. However, there is still much to learn about this new virus, and vigilance is key. If your pet exhibits signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, fever, abnormally low energy, etc.), particularly if your pet has been exposed to someone known to be infected with COVID-19, call your veterinarian for guidance.
Should my pet wear a face mask as a precaution?
No. First, it is unlikely that this will not protect your pet from any potential disease transmission. Second, it can cause breathing difficulties, especially in certain breeds of cats and dogs. Third, masks must be saved for use in people with active signs of infection and medical professionals.
What are the effects of social distancing on pets?
For the most part, this should be an enjoyable time for your pets. Many of our pets are home alone all day while we are at work or engaged in other activities. During this time of social distancing, you are likely spending more time at home than usual. As long as you are not feeling sick, take advantage of this time to enjoy some extra cuddles and playtime with your pets.
“Fresh air and exercise will likely alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that you may be feeling, while also helping to provide fun and exercise for your dog.”
It is healthy to spend time outdoors while social distancing, as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. Avoid crowded areas like dog parks and busy trails, but quiet neighborhood streets and less-popular trails can give you an excellent opportunity to get outside for a long walk with your dog. Fresh air and exercise will likely alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that you may be feeling, while also helping to provide fun and exercise for your dog.
If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. There are many different types of cat toys available (many of which can be ordered online, allowing you to avoid a shopping trip), but cardboard boxes and balled-up paper that you likely already have at home can also provide a source of entertainment for both you and your cat.
If I have multiple pets, or different types of pets, should I keep them separate?
At this time, there is no evidence that pets can become infected or transmit the virus to another animal, whether that be dog to dog, cat to cat, or between different species of pets (dog to cat for example). Therefore, there is no need to keep pets separated from each other. Taking your pet to a boarding facility or veterinary clinic is also okay, as long as you avoid close contact with employees and other clients.
How do I protect my pets if I get sick?
At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that pets can contract or transmit COVID-19. At the same time, however, this is a new virus and it is not fully understood. For this reason, it is best to limit your contact with your pets if you are sick.
If possible, have another family member care for pets while you are ill. This will minimize health risks to both you and your pet. If you must care for your pet yourself, try to minimize contact while doing so. Limit petting and cuddling of your pets and avoid sharing food. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pets.
What if my pet needs veterinary care during this period of social distancing?
Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect social distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed. You may be asked whether you have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 and/or whether you have had any respiratory signs or fever. Based on this information, they will determine the safest way to care for your pet.
Expect that your veterinary visit may look or feel a little different during this time period. Some practices are taking pets to the treatment area for exams and diagnostics, in order to limit the amount of time that team members and clients spend confined in exam rooms together, while other practices are offering curbside service and allowing clients to wait in their cars. Regardless of the approach used during your visit, understand that your veterinarian is doing his or her best to maximize your safety, your pet’s safety, and the safety of the veterinary team.