The simple answer to the question of “Can your pet get coronavirus from you?”: There’s not enough information to give anyone a full answer. Based on the evidence we do have on the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, pet owners should take precautions when caring for their pets, especially if they’re sick themselves.
When reading news about the current pandemic, you may often see it referred to by multiple names: coronavirus, coronavirus disease, COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2. Coronavirus actually refers to a large family of viruses that cause respiratory issues. Some coronaviruses, like the novel coronavirus, cause cold-like illnesses in humans. Other types of coronaviruses cause illness in animals such as cattle, camels and bats. Some types of coronaviruses, like feline coronaviruses, only infect animals.
The exact source of the current outbreak has yet to be discovered, but the first infections were linked to a live animal market in China. COVID-19 is confirmed to be zoonotic, meaning it is a disease spread between animals and people. However, the current spread is due to human-to-human transmission.
The Risk of Spreading COVID-19 to Animals
The first case of an animal testing positive for the virus in the US was a tiger that had a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York. According to the Bronx Zoo, the animal was infected by a zoo employee who was “asymptotically infected with the virus.”
“The tests were run in the Bronx Zoo tiger were performed at veterinary college diagnostics labs at Cornell U and University of Illinois. These labs test animal samples only,” Nahmi Jones, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, tells Parentology.
Outside of the US, there have been reported cases in which dogs and cats have tested positive to COVID-19 after close contact with infected humans. The British Veterinary Association said animals “can act as fomites,” which are objects that can become contaminated with infectious organisms.
“Most of the tests reported so far have been conducted in Hong Kong where SARS-CoV-2 tests are readily available,” Jones tells Parentology.
What To Do If You’re Sick
The British Veterinary Association released a statement, “For pet owners who have COVID-19 or who are self-isolating we are recommending that you keep your cat indoors if possible, during that time.” They said, “The virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs.”
The recommendation is mainly for those that let their cats outdoors, based on the worry that the cats may come into contact with infected individuals. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association is not recommending the same advice.
“In theory, if a patient with a virus in their nose rubbed their nose and got a bunch of virus on their hand and then petted their dog … and then another family member petted that dog in the exact same place and then rubbed their nose, maybe they could transmit it,” Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, told CNN. The bigger risk factor remains to be the infected human, instead of the pets.
If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, you should restrict contact with pets and animals just as you would with humans, whether you are tested or not. The CDC recommends people limit contact with pets until more information is known to the virus:
- If possible, have another member of your household care for your animals if you’re sick. If there’s no one else to care for your pets, wash your hands immediately before and after interacting with them.
- Avoid contact with your pet, stop petting, cuddling, sharing food, and being kissed or licked.