COVID-19 and Pets: Updated Information and Recommendations

Written by Oxbow

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May 5, 2020🞄

As our understanding of COVID-19 continues to evolve daily, we would like to take the opportunity to share some additional information with the small pet community regarding this disease and the potential impacts to our domestic pet species.  Additionally, the CDC has come out with some new guidelines and recommendations around taking measures to prevent the potential of pet parents and their animals from being exposed.

Positive cases in domestic pet species in the United States

As you may have heard, there have been a few positive cases around domestic pet species recently confirmed here in the United States.  The first known positive case was associated with a large cat at a zoo in New York City.  This was followed with positive cases from at least two domestic cats and, most recently, a case in North Carolina affecting a dog living in a household with humans who had tested positive.

Have additional pet species been confirmed positive for COVID-19?

To date, there have been no known additional positive cases affecting additional domestic small animal species.  There is also no information that indicates that pets play a vital role in the transmission of the virus.  Additionally, it does not appear that the overall risk to pet populations is high.  With that being said, we know we have a lot of information to continue to gather and it’s important to note that there does appear to be some correlation to the potential that positive humans can infect their pets with the disease.

Updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC has recently provided some updated guidelines regarding the potential risks to pets associated with COVID-19.  These guidelines are specifically designed to protect not only pet parents, but your pets as well.  The basis for the following guidelines comes from the CDC.  We encourage all pet parents to stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines here.

What should I do if I own a pet?

First and foremost, be aware that we still have a lot to learn about this disease.  Until we learn more specifically about how this virus affects animals, it is strongly recommended that you treat your pets no differently than you would treat other members of your household.

  • Avoid any contact with pets or humans outside of your household.
  • Keep your pets indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.  While many of us take our pets outside routinely for their wellbeing, make sure this activity is supervised at all times to avoid the potential for incidental contact with other pets or human beings.
  • Avoid large gatherings involving both pets and people.
  • If you have any concerns about clinical signs or behaviors your pets are exhibiting, please contact your veterinarian.

What should I do if I have tested positive for COVID-19 or am experiencing symptoms?

If you are sick with COVID-19 (either because you have exhibited potential clinical signs, or because you have a positive test), until we know more about this virus and how it affects pets, it is strongly recommended by the CDC and other organizations that we take the same precautions that we would with the other human members of our household.  These precautions include:

  • Avoid any direct contact with your pets if at all possible, opting to have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.  This also unfortunately means no petting or other direct interaction.
  • If you are the only member of your household capable of providing care for your pet, take additional precautions.  Wear a face mask at all times when interacting with your pet and wash your hands before and after.
  • If you take these important precautions, the overall risk to your pets should remain low.

What should I do if I suspect my pet is sick?

If you have been confirmed positive for COVID-19  (or are experiencing symptoms) and your pet exhibits clinical signs that make you worried or concerned, do not take your pet to see your veterinarian.  Instead, first contact your veterinarian to discuss symptoms and concerns.  Your veterinarian will be able to work with you, either utilizing telemedicine or other tools, to evaluate different diagnostics as well as different therapies or treatments that may be indicated to provide for your pet’s care and wellbeing.