Last Updated: August 7th, 2020
Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has had an undeniable impact on our daily lives, and many people have wondered how this outbreak will affect our pets. The good news is that pets are not currently thought to be at risk for illness from COVID-19. The CDC has reported a small number of pets worldwide that have been infected by close contact with an infected human, but those animals have shown mild or no signs, and have recovered uneventfully. Nevertheless, it’s important to take some precautions to ensure the health of your family - both two- and four-legged! - during this time. In this article, you’ll find the answers from veterinarians Dr. Michele King and Dr. Elizabeth Racine, to some of the most commonly asked questions about pets and COVID-19.
While certain viruses in the coronavirus family can infect dogs and cats, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to affect domestic animals commonly. While there have been a few cases worldwide of dogs, cats, and ferrets testing positive for COVID-19, these animals were living in close contact with humans who had also tested positive, and they recovered uneventfully, if they showed any signs at all. One dog has been reported to have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Louisiana, but that dog also had lymphoma, which was more likely the cause of death. It is believed that the risk to pets is low at this time.
Veterinary diagnostic company IDEXX has developed a veterinary test for COVID-19, for the rare cases where veterinarians and public health authorities believe it appropriate to test. Criteria to have the test include the pet living in a household with a human who has tested positive for COVID-19, the pet having been tested for more common infections, and the pet showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19, especially cats and ferrets. Testing animals for COVID-19 is infrequent at this time, and not a common diagnostic tool, but it is available if needed.
There is no evidence to indicate that pets can carry COVID-19 or transmit it to humans. However, pets may act as fomites. This means that if an infected person touches or coughs on your pet, your pet could theoretically carry the virus on his or her fur, which could then infect you when you touch your pet. For this reason and out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that you limit contact with your pet if you are sick. If your pet has had contact with a sick person, bathing with a pet-specific shampoo and warm water may minimize your risk of transmission.
You should never use disinfectants directly on your pet. If you need to disinfect surfaces, most common household disinfectants are safe for your pet once they have dried. Be sure to check the product’s label for instructions, and keep your pet away from the area until the surface is completely dry.
It’s best to keep a month’s supply of food, treats, medications, cat litter, and other supplies on hand in case you need to be quarantined. Many veterinary hospitals now partner with online pharmacies that can deliver food and medications directly to your door. Ask your veterinarian about signing up for these services so you can limit your trips to the store.
Most veterinary hospitals have continued to be open during the outbreak, but some may have special procedures in place to reduce the risk of illness among staff and clients. If your pet is sick or injured, contact your veterinarian to find out how you should proceed. Be sure to let them know if you are sick or have had contact with someone who has coronavirus so they can take appropriate precautions. It is recommended that you postpone routine visits, like vaccines, so that the veterinary staff can limit the number of people passing through the hospital.
Now is a great time to break out the puzzle toys and slow feeders! You can also try hiding bits of kibble around the house for your pet to find or work on mastering some new tricks. Just be careful not to add too many treats to your pets’ diets - no one wants social distancing AND weight gain!
Remember too that it’s okay to take your pet outdoors during this time as long as you are not coming into contact with other people. Playing games in the backyard, going for hikes, or just soaking up the sun are great ways to beat the self-quarantine blues.
Currently, Wag! Pet Caregivers are still available to ensure your pet receives all the care he or she needs. Wag! has released a message to the community with best practices for pet parents and pet caregivers to minimize the spread of illness, and will continue to monitor the situation closely. Throughout these uncertain times, the safety of pets and pet parents is the top priority of pet caregivers. Pet parents on the Wag! platform have the option to book socially distanced walks. Look for the Socially Distanced Pet Care badge on a Pet Caregiver's profile which indicates that they have completed an informational session on the CDC's social distancing guidelines. Learn more about Socially Distanced Service options here.
There’s still a lot left to be learned about COVID-19, including its implications for our pets. As more information becomes available, new recommendations may be made to help keep both people and pets healthy. The CDC and the World Health Organization are the best sources for up-to-date information about the current coronavirus outbreak. Wag! also compiled a master list of credible organizations and news articles that you can check out here: Resource Center.