You’ve likely seen recent news reports of several animal species testing positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., as the number of human infections continues to rise. Although there was originally little to no evidence to indicate pets or other animals could be infected with the novel coronavirus, we’ve discovered there is still much to learn about how this virus operates. Let’s recap what we have learned so far about COVID-19, its potential effect on pets, and the appropriate steps you should take to keep your furry friend safe, should you become ill.
Documented COVID-19 cases in animals
While you’ve probably already heard about the two canine COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, and the feline cases in Hong Kong and Belgium, news of pets testing positive for COVID-19 has been hitting closer to home. The first dog in the U.S. has tested positive, along with two domestic cats, and a handful of lions and tigers. Here is what we know about the U.S. COVID-19 animal cases:
- Two cats in New York — In April, the CDC and USDA announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in U.S. pets—two cats living in separate areas in New York. Both cats displayed mild respiratory illness, and are expected to make a full recovery. The first cat was tested after showing mild respiratory signs, although no household members had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The virus may have been transmitted to the cat by an asymptomatic family member, or through contact with someone outside the home.
The second cat was also tested after showing respiratory illness, but this case was different in that the owner tested positive for COVID-19, prior to the cat falling ill. Oddly enough, another cat in the same household showed no signs of respiratory illness.
- Eight big cats in New York City — Throughout the month of April, eight tigers and lions in the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19. The first tiger was tested after developing a dry cough and inappetence while under the care of a zookeeper who was subclinically shedding the virus. Another four tigers and three lions tested positive following the first ill tiger, despite the zoo being closed to the public since March 16.
- One dog in North Carolina — On April 27, a pug in North Carolina was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 at Duke University, along with three people in the household. One person in the family, and the other household dog and cat did not test positive. The pug was sick with mild respiratory illness—a dry cough and inappetence—for a few days, but recovered uneventfully. This case has not yet been confirmed by the CDC.
While only three pets in the U.S. have tested COVID-19-positive, many may technically be carrying the virus, but have not developed illness signs. For pets who fall ill with respiratory illness after exposure to an infected person, testing is recommended, to rule out COVID-19.
Potential for COVID-19 transmission between pets and people
Considering more than a million COVID-19 human cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but only a handful of animal cases, it stands to reason that your pet is extremely unlikely to contract COVID-19, much less develop respiratory signs from the virus. We will probably see more positive pet cases as the virus continues to infect more people, but the likelihood that your pet will contract COVID-19, especially if you take appropriate precautions, is negligible.
As of now, zero cases of a pet giving a person COVID-19 have been reported. While pets can contract the virus from people, it does not appear to be mutual. The virus likely terminates in animals, and is unable to be passed to humans. But, as we’ve discovered, we are constantly learning more about how this novel coronavirus affects people and animals, and research may change current thinking.
Steps to keep your pet safe from COVID-19
We recommend adhering to the CDC’s safety guidelines, whether or not you are ill. Treat your pet like any other family member, and practice social distancing if you are ill. Other tips to keep you and your furry friend safe include:
- Avoid the crowds — Avoid taking your dog to heavily trafficked areas, such as dog parks or pet stores. Opt for exercise in secluded areas on a leash, or in your backyard, to minimize contact with other people and pets.
- Wash your hands — Practice good hygiene around your pet by washing your hands before and after each interaction, especially when handling their food and water.
- No cuddling allowed — Avoid kissing, hugging, snuggling, or sharing food with your pet, if you are ill.
- Forget the facemask — Do not put a facemask on your pet, because the mask not only will probably not be tolerated, but can also restrict breathing.
Since the data now shows that pets can contract COVID-19, although they do not appear to become as ill as people, practice social distancing and good hygiene with your furry pal, as you do for yourself, to remain healthy.
What to do if your pet becomes ill
If your pet develops any illness signs, especially after exposure to an infected person, contact us. Tests are available for veterinarians to perform on pets suspected of a COVID-19 infection and, while many other respiratory disorders are more likely, we must rule out a viral infection, to keep our community and your family safe.
For more information regarding our COVID-19 protocols, check out our website—as always, Mill Creek Animal Hospital is here for you and your pet, protecting animal and human health. Call us with any questions about COVID-19 and your pet, or if your pet develops illness signs.