On December 31, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in China reported the first cases of a pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Later, the cause was identified as a novel coronavirus. The cases of the novel coronavirus swelled day by day and eventually, reached outside the shores of China. By March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Several studies have cataloged how COVID-19 affects human beings, but little is still known about how it impacts pets and other animals. On February 28, 2020, the first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian living in Hong Kong, had tested “weak positive” for COVID-19. The Pomeranian was living with a person who was sick with the 2019 coronavirus disease in a government facility.
The other pets in the household, a dog and a cat, did not test positive for COVID-19. The 17-year-old Pomeranian died of cardiac arrest after it was released from quarantine on March 16, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
As of May 8, 2020, a total of 18 animals had been infected with COVID-19. According to a report published on the website of the University of California—Davis campus School of Veterinary Medicine, the animals infected included the following:
Based on reports, we can infer that domestic animals, like cats and dogs, can get infected with COVID-19. While the risk of infection is low, pet owners should be cautious and minimize their animal companion’s chances of getting the coronavirus disease.
As of June 2020, there have been a small number of reported cases of dogs, cats, tigers, and lions testing positive for COVID-19. Ferrets can also be infected with the novel coronavirus disease, according to findings by small scientific studies. In the Netherlands, two farms were quarantined after mink also tested positive for COVID-19.
The US Centers for Diseases’ Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and animals also cites a study on animals that may be susceptible to the virus. In the laboratory testing, researchers found that ferrets, cats, and golden Syrian hamsters can be infected with the virus and also spread it to other animals of the same species. But pigs, chickens, and ducks did not get infected, according to the results of the same study.
There is still a lot to be known about transmission of the 2019 coronavirus in animals. In the meantime, it is best to lessen your pet’s interaction with the world outside, as well as other people and animals.
According to limited data on COVID-19 animal-to-human transmission, the risk of getting the 2019 coronavirus disease from pets and other animals is currently low. In the same CDC FAQ mentioned earlier, the agency states, “At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.”
However, pets can also carry other diseases, viral infections, or parasites, which can spread to humans, such as rabies, norovirus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ringworms. There are also other types of coronaviruses, like canine and feline coronavirus, which can infect dog and cats.
As a precaution, always wash your hands after touching your pet, maintain good hygiene, and clean your home frequently to get rid of anything that can cause illnesses and infections.
Right now, there is no evidence that the 2019 coronavirus, as well as other viruses, can infect people through animals’ skin or fur. However, pets can carry bacteria and fungi on their skin or fur that may get people sick. That is why hand washing is recommended after touching our pets.
According to reports, some of the animals that tested positive for COVID-19 had lived or interacted with people who were infected with the coronavirus disease. Although there are not many studies on this, we can infer that the novel coronavirus can spread from people to animals.
As such, the best course of action if you have COVID-19 is to avoid interactions with your pet until you are cured. This means no petting, kissing, or sharing food and the same space with your animal companion.
If you are constantly exposed to COVID-19 patients due to your line of work, it is also best to avoid interacting with your family, including your pet, to minimize their risk of getting the virus. Many medical professionals isolate themselves from their family by living separately or separating their space at home.
Right now, animals are not prioritized for testing. Tests are limited even for humans. Do not get your pets tested for COVID-19 unless advised by your veterinarian.
Whether you are a renter or a homeowner, there are many steps you can take to lower your pet’s risk of getting COVID-19. The first and most important step is to protect yourself from getting the disease.
If you are at risk, then your pet is in the same position. Practice social distancing, healthy habits (e.g., frequent hand washing and wearing a mask) and maintain good hygiene at all times.
To keep your animal companion safe from the disease, avoid going out and interacting with other people and animals for the meantime. Do not invite people to your house. It is best to limit the people and animals your pet meets every day to minimize their risk of getting the virus.
When coming back from the outside, you must disinfect your shoes before entering your house. Take a shower as soon as you get back, and wash your clothes. Disinfect all your belongings that you took outside and supplies that you bought from stores.
Do not interact with your pet before you have washed and cleaned yourself, your clothes, and any items you may have touched. Finally, clean and sanitize your home regularly. Disinfect your doorknobs and surfaces that you often touch every day.
In summary, here are the steps you need to take to reduce your pet’s risk of getting the novel coronavirus disease:
Because you also have to buy supplies for your pet, make sure the pet store you choose is practicing due diligence in keeping out the virus in their facilities and keeping their employees safe. Ask your pet food, treats, chews, and toys supplier what measures they have taken to keep COVID-19 out of their business.
Firstly, do not leave your house and go to your veterinarian. If you suspect your pet is sick with COVID-19, you should minimize their contact with other people and animals. Call your vet to ask what steps you need to take next. They can help make arrangements for you to get your pet tested and treated.
There plenty of indoors activities you can do keep your pet exercised and stimulated, including practicing tricks, playing with interactive toys, and working out with your animal companion.
You can walk around the house, play hide and seek, or play fetch inside to keep your pet active indoors.
To prevent your pet from gaining extra weight, do not give them too much food, especially treats, while you are stuck inside. Make sure they are eating a well-balanced meal and regular portions.
You can, but avoid going to places where a large number of people and other animals gather, like dog parks. Practice social distancing when outside and avoid interacting with people and animals outside of your household.
When going to the dog park, practice these safety precautions:
You can learn more about how to protect your pets from COVID-19 in this article by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Again, it is best to minimize the time your animal companion spends outside and around other people and animals. If you take your animal companion to pet daycare or a groomer, you will likely encounter other people and animals. Like you, your pet will have to bear with not having a nice haircut for now.
You can take these steps to keep your home safe from COVID-19:
If possible, ask your landlord or landlady to have a disinfectant rug for shoes prepared at the building apartment entrance. This way, no one is bringing their dirty shoes in the building, reducing the risk of bringing in bacteria, viruses, and other harmful elements from the outside.
The CDC has prepared guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting your home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read it.
Reports on animals with COVID-19 imply that the risk of infection from pets to people is low. Therefore, there is no significant evidence that you need to worry for your health if you adopt a pet from a shelter.
Of course, animals can carry other diseases that may be transmitted to people, so it is vital to get your rescue checked before taking them home. Call your veterinarian to make an appointment for a checkup when there are fewer people and animals in the clinic.
Many pet stores closed during quarantine, so finding a reputable place to buy a pet may be rare. As much as possible, avoid buying a pet from unknown breeders and unreliable sources to protect yourself from pet scams.
If you really want a pet to keep you company during the lockdown, try fostering a shelter animal. Many rescued animals are stuck in shelters waiting for loving homes; some have waited for years. They may not even get a chance to take walks or go out since volunteers cannot report to shelters because of the pandemic.
When you adopt or foster animals from a shelter, you are going to change their lives forever and give them a chance to experience what it’s like to live in a home where they are wanted and loved.
Cheng, Lilian. (March 18, 2020). First dog found with coronavirus has died after returning home virus-free from quarantine, Hong Kong authorities reveal. South China Morning Post.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Cleaning and Disinfecting Households.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed May 27, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed May 29, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#COVID-19-and-Animals
US Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
US Food and Drug Administration. Last updated June 3, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
Warren, Rob. (April 8, 2020). Information on Animals That Have Tested Positive for COVID-19.
UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/information-animals-covid-19
World Health Organization. (n.d.). WHO Timeline—COVID-19.
World Health Organization. Last updated April 27, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline---covid-19