While we have learned a great deal about COVID-19 and its causative pathogen, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there is still much to discover. To ensure your pet and your family remain as safe as possible from this threat, our Best Friends Veterinary Care team provides updates on the global pandemic. Let’s take a look at your pet’s susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, what you must do if you test positive, and how to best care for your furry family members while you are sick.
Question: Can my pet get COVID-19 from me?
Answer: Technically, yes, your pet can get COVID-19 from you if you are ill. However, compared with people, cases of pets naturally infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are extremely rare. As of February 2021, only 126 cats and 84 dogs had tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide. These pets were tested not because they were showing illness signs, but because they lived in a home with COVID-19 positive people. So, if you have COVID-19, you can transmit the illness to your pet, but the chance is incredibly unlikely, and your pet’s chance of developing an apparent infection is much more unlikely.
Q: What precautions should I take while caring for my pet if I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19?
A: Despite the low probability of your pet contracting COVID-19 from you, you should still take proper precautions, and treat your pet as you would any susceptible person. Maintain your distance, wash your hands before and after handling your pet, and refrain from kissing or hugging your furry pal. Ideally, have a healthy family member or friend care for your pet until your illness improves. If this is not feasible, minimize contact as much as possible by limiting interaction and keeping your pet in a separate home area.
Q: What are SARS-CoV-2 infection signs in pets?
A: Although cats and dogs who have acquired a SARS-CoV-2 infection are often asymptomatic, they can develop clinical signs. If you have COVID-19 and have been in close contact with your pet, watch for the following signs that can indicate infection:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Nasal discharge
- Ocular discharge
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and you notice any of these signs in your pet, contact our hospital immediately. Let us know the situation so we can adequately prepare for testing while minimizing the disease transmission risk.
Q: Should my pet be tested for COVID-19?
A: At this time, routine COVID-19 testing of pets is not recommended. And, if your pet develops signs similar to a SARS-CoV-2 infection, more common causes should be eliminated first. However, if other causes are ruled out, and your pet has been exposed to COVID-19 and developed illness signs, testing would be recommended.
Q: What animal species are most likely to get SARS-CoV-2?
A: While the number of positive canine and feline cases is almost equal, cats appear much more likely to develop COVID-19 than dogs. Positive COVID-19 cases have been seen in zoos in large cats, such as tigers and lions, further reinforcing cats’ susceptibility to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Other naturally occurring infections have been found in gorillas and mink. In a laboratory setting, researchers found that cats and ferrets are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, dogs have low susceptibility, and pigs, chickens, and ducks are not susceptible to the virus. As more research is conducted, the list of susceptible species may grow.
Q: Can pets spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to people?
A: To date, no reports have been made of pets transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus to people. Although new COVID-19 data is constantly being gathered, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from pets to people is considered low. However, new strains are appearing, and these strains may affect pets and people differently, so always take precautions when caring for a pet or person with any illness.
As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, our protocols will change to ensure everyone’s safety. We will keep our team, our patients, and our community as safe as possible through a strict disinfecting regimen, social distancing, and curbside care. Monitor our Facebook page for updates, or contact our Best Friends Veterinary Care team to schedule an appointment, and to learn our most current COVID-19 protocols.