The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people all over the world, leading to fear and uncertainty. One of the biggest questions among pet owners is whether or not our pets can carry and transmit the virus to humans. While the experts don't have all the answers, they are working hard to determine the facts and share them with the public.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the abbreviation for Coronavirus Disease 2019, a respiratory illness that spread throughout the world in 2020, infecting hundreds of thousands of people. This highly contagious virus can easily spread from person to person. SARS-CoV-2 (formerly know as 2019-nCoV) is the beta-coronavirus that causes COVID-19. As of 2021, this is a novel (new) virus that is still being researched by scientists.
Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
There are strains of coronavirus that affect dogs, but they are not the same as COVID-19. Though uncommon, dogs can contract a strain of coronavirus called canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) that causes diarrhea in a dog. There is also a canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) but it is also uncommon.
COVID-19 is a human virus that does not appear to have a significant impact on dogs. Two dogs in Hong Kong were infected COVID-19 but did not become sick. Experts believe that the virus was spread from the person to the dog, and not the other way around. According to the AVMA, "infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people."
There are some documented cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19.
- A tiger and a lion in New York, April 2020
- Two domestic cats in New York, April 2020
- A dog in North Carolina, April/May 2020
- Two dogs in Hong Kong, March 2020
- A cat in Belgium, March 2020
- Two mink farms in The Netherlands, April 2020
- Two domestic cats in France, May 2020
- A domestic cat in Spain, May 2020
- A domestic cat in Germany, May 2020
- A dog and a cat in The Netherlands, May 2020
- A cat in Russia, May 2020
Some of these animals did become sick. Most are believed to have contracted the virus from infected humans. As of 2021, there is no evidence that animals can spread COVID-19 to humans.
Can Strangers Who Pet Your Dog Spread Coronavirus to You?
COVID-19 is primarily transmitted via person-to-person contact, especially when droplets of saliva or mucus get into the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes.
A secondary method of contraction is via fomites, which are objects or surfaces contaminated with virus particles. The virus can live much longer on non-porous surfaces like metal and plastic. However, the virus does not thrive on soft, porous surfaces like fabric and pet fur. Therefore, it is very unlikely that a pet can carry virus particles from one person to another.
Despite this information, it's best to be cautious and keep strangers away from your pet. Groom your pet well after contact with others, then wash your hands well.
Life for Dogs During the Coronavirus Isolation Period
Many cities and states have or will implement orders to shelter in place or practice social distancing. During this time of isolation, your dog may become confused by the change in routine. If your dog is accustomed to leaving the house and visiting public places, you may see signs of boredom.
The best way to care for your dog during this time is to keep as closely as possible to a routine. Continue to provide daily exercise if you are not sick. If you are walking your dog, keep your distance from other people and avoid public places. Practice good hygiene techniques with yourself and your dog. Wash your hands frequently, keep food and water bowls clean, wash toys and bedding, and groom your dog regularly.
How to Socialize Dogs During the Coronavirus Isolation Period
If you are in the process of socializing your puppy or adult dog, there's no doubt that this crisis has poor timing! However, social distancing is essential as long as COVID-19 is a concern. You will need to get creative and do your best to provide socialization for your dog, without putting yourself and others at risk.
You can still bring your dog outdoors and expose him to the sounds and sights of cars and trucks. You can also ask family members in isolation with you to help you stage certain situations. Practice setting up novel scenarios in your home or yard. Ask a family member to walk on crutches or with a pronounced limp.
Are There Any Risks to My Pet if I Take Them to the Vet During This Time?
Both the AVMA and the CDC have stated that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States. Veterinary offices are taking precautions to protect their staff and clients from COVID-19 transmission. This means that many offices are only seeing pets as drop-offs or for curbside/car side service. This is to stop the spread of coronavirus among people.
Although it is unlikely that COVID-19 virus particles can survive on a pet's body, those at high risk may wish to take extra precautions. If you are at a greater risk than most and your pet needs to see the vet, then it's best to send another person with your pet to see the vet. An extra measure would be to ask that person to groom your pet after the visits (bathing or simply brushing out the pet can offer peace of mind).
How to Handle Your Dog if You Become Infected With COVID-19
Although it is unlikely that you can infect your pet with COVID-19 or transmit viral particles on your pet to another person, it's important to take precautions until we have all of the information. The AVMA states, "Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a face mask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them."
Licitra, Beth et al. Canine Enteric Coronaviruses: Emerging Viral Pathogens With Distinct Recombinant Spike Proteins. Viruses, vol 6, no. 8, 2014, pp. 3363-3376. MDPI AG. doi:10.3390/v6083363
SARS-CoV-2 in animals. American Veterinary Medical Association.
COVID-19: What Veterinarians Need To Know. American Veterinary Medical Association.
COVID-19 and Animals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Helpful Questions and Answers About Coronavirus (COVID-19) And Your Pets. Food and Drug Administration.