The coronavirus pandemic has people around the world worried about the health of themselves and their families — but you’re probably concerned about your pet, too.
You might be asking yourself questions like:
– Can my dog get the coronavirus?
– If I have the coronavirus, do I have to stay away from my dog?
– Am I allowed to walk my dog?
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Jessica Romine, a veterinarian at BluePearl Pet Hospital in New York City, to get your questions answered.
Can my pet get COVID-19?
“The largest known transmission risk at this time is between people — not between pets or from people to pets,” Dr. Romine said.
“So far, only a small number of pets belonging to people infected with COVID-19 have been tested and confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and only a few of the pets reported to be positive showed signs of illness,” Dr. Romine added.
It’s important to note that dogs and cats are a little different when it comes to contracting COVID-19.
According to Dr. Romine, cats may be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 because it’s believed they have similar receptors to humans.
“Cats have similar angiotensin converting enzyme — or ‘ACE’ — receptors to humans, which are where the SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to attach,” Dr. Romine said. ”Like humans, cats may have differing responses to viral exposure with some being more susceptible than others.”
With that said, this just means that house cats may contract the virus more than dogs do, but they’re still very likely to recover just as if they had a typical cold.
If you suspect your cat may have been in contact with an infected person and is showing signs of progressive respiratory infection, you should contact your veterinarian.
Can pets spread COVID-19?
According to Dr. Romine, based on what is currently known, there’s no known evidence that domestic dogs or cats can be a source of infection to humans or other animals — and there’s only limited evidence to suggest that animals are at risk themselves from the virus.
Can I pet my dog or cat?
“Yes! Absolutely! However, as an added precaution, it’s advised to keep pets away from infected people and to confine pets of infected people,” Dr. Romine said.
While it doesn’t seem that any owners have contracted the disease as a result of their dog or cat having it first, it’s important to remember that any surface an infected person touches may transfer the virus — so if someone with the virus sneezes on their dog’s fur, and then you touch that fur and then touch your nose, you could technically get infected.
Because of this, you can cuddle your own dog or cat as much as you want (provided they’re self-isolating with you!), but it’s best to treat other people’s dogs or cats like any other public surface and avoid touching them. If you can’t avoid it, practice good hand and respiratory hygiene — which means washing your hands with soap right after and avoid touching your face before you do.
Can I still walk my dog?
You most certainly can (and should!) still walk your dog, but you should follow the guidelines put out by the CDC:
– Don’t let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household
– Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people
– Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from other people and animals
– Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather
And of course, try to avoid crowded pathways and wear a mask to protect yourself and others whenever there are people nearby.
Is there anything I need to do differently to keep them safe?
Aside from the precautions above, according to Dr. Romine, you can act as you normally would around your pet provided you’re healthy.
If you do get sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), the CDC recommends restricting contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people, to make sure they don’t accidentally infect others.
– When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
– Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding, while you are sick.
– 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 you interact with them.
How to stay up-to-date
Since this a new and evolving situation, it’s important that pet owners follow current COVID-19 health recommendations from local officials and stay up-to-date on the latest information from reputable sources like:
– World Small Animal Veterinary Association: Coronavirus and Companion Animals Advice
– World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
– U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Coronavirus Disease 2019: If You Have Pets
If I suspect my dog or cat has COVID-19, do I need to get him tested?
The CDC, USDA, AVMA and other human and veterinary health organizations do not recommend routine testing of animals for the virus at this time. “A pet showing upper respiratory signs is far more likely to be sick with other, much more common canine disease like Bordetella, mycoplasma, or canine/feline influenza,” Dr. Romine said.
However, Dr. Romine added that if there’s a specific cause for concern (like your pet has been in close contact with a confirmed infected human, and she’s showing progressive respiratory signs like a worsening cough, fever, lethargy, declining appetite, nasal discharge, etc.), you should contact your veterinarian to discuss next steps.
Is there anything pet owners should know that has not already been covered?
If you’re still concerned about COVID-19 and your pets, talk to a veterinarian.
Since animal health is an essential service, many veterinarians are still open, and while some are utilizing telemedicine options, most are operating on a “curbside” basis, meaning that only the animal enters the actual hospital and vets and vet techs are using appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment). Which means if your pet does need care, you should still be able to get it.
“This is helping us to continue providing our full level of care to our patients, while limiting the risk of transmission,” Dr. Romine said.
According to Dr. Romine, in this time of physical distancing, pets can play an important role in our network of support by helping to relieve loneliness, combat feelings of isolation or sadness and provide companionship.
“The evolving scientific information around this new virus reinforces the need to treat pets as we do our family members: Isolate them from other infected individuals and practice good hygiene when handling them,” Dr. Romine said.
Now more than ever, we are all lucky to have the unwavering love of our pets — and the best thing we can do is love them right back.