Covid-19 and Companion Animals

SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19, or “Coronavirus,” is a new coronavirus that has circulated worldwide and wreaked havoc on human patients, healthcare systems, and economies. The novel coronavirus is highly infective and causes substantial mortality in humans. Two common questions occur when discussing our pets:

  1. Can dogs and cats catch coronavirus?
  2. Can my pet spread coronavirus?

Answers to these questions are constantly changing, and are likely to change in the coming weeks and months. So, let’s dig into these questions, based on current information!

  1. Can dogs and cats catch coronavirus? Cats and dogs are commonly infected as young animals with coronaviruses that cause gastrointestinal illness, typically in the form of diarrhea. Coronaviruses have not been documented to cause respiratory illness in cats and dogs, until recently. As for Covid-19, there are documented case reports of both dogs and cats who have developed respiratory illness. Felid cases include a housecat in New York, and multiple zoo kept animals at the Bronx Zoo. At this time, fatality has not been documented in animals as a result of Covid-19. One patient in Hong Kong died several days after documented recovery from Covid-19. The bottom line to know is infection rates are low, and fatality has not been reported at this time.
  2. Can my pet spread coronavirus infection? At this time, transmission by pets as fomites (i.e. transmission through fur, clothing, etc.) is unlikely. However, transmission by handling of leashes or other surfaces may be of concern. Additionally, cats and dogs have not been documented to spread Covid-19 through respiratory secretions. Rather, these infections are believed to have spread from humans to animals. Transmission from companion animal to human cannot be ruled out, as transmission from an animal (bat) to a human is the most likely source of initial Covid-19 infection.

Pet Recommendations:

  1. Practice social distancing for your furry companion. Mingling at dog parks or on neighborhood walks is discouraged at this time. Most instances of mingling dogs include human mingling, which is also discouraged at this time. Though infection is highly unlikely and mortality is undocumented, safety is of upmost importance as we continue to learn the behavior of Covid-19.
  2. If you become ill with Covid-19, please quarantine yourself from your pet. If you live alone, contact a trusted family member or friend to care for your pet at their home or transport your pet to an appropriate boarding facility. If you require outside assistance for your pet, please be sure to minimize human contact.
  3. Should I take my pet to the vet? In cases of life-threatening illness or emergency, the simple answer is YES! In all areas of the country, life-saving treatment is legal and necessary. In Tennessee, veterinarians are allowed to provide necessary care for animals. This is at the discretion of the attending veterinarian. You should take numerous precautions when visiting your veterinarian’s office to provide a safe environment for yourself, your family, your pet, and the employees of the hospital. These include:
    1. Use curbside service: This limits human contact to minimize spread of Covid-19.
      1. Communicate with the doctor via phone or text message.
    1. If you must enter the building, limit the number of family members to 2 per animal.
    1. Wear a mask at all times when interacting with veterinary staff, and maintain safe distance of 6 feet.
    1. Pay via phone or ask for your credit card to be sanitized after the transaction. AVOID USING CASH!
    1. Ask for a telemedicine appointment if you feel this will be sufficient for your pet’s ailment. Many veterinarians are now equipped with video capability to help diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment.
    1. Ask for your pet’s leash or carrier to be sanitized during your pet’s visit.
  4. How do I know if my pet has Covid-19? If your pet displays respiratory illness, please visit your local veterinarian for recommendations to diagnose and treat his or her illness. Testing is available for pets when there is suspicion of Covid-19 illness. Your veterinarian will be able to provide guidance to best care for your pet’s situation.

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