We know that it is a very stressful time for you and your pets. There is a lot of information being shared online that may be causing you fear how COVID-19 may affect your furry family members. We appreciate that it can be difficult to know which sources of information to trust and would like to provide you with the resources you need to stay current. It is important to recognize that this is still an evolving area with many unknowns and so definitive statements about COVID-19 and pets are lacking. Recommendations may change as we continue to reassess the evidence. The following is the most up-to-date information currently available. It is a compilation of data from online resources that continue to provide regular updates on COVID-19 and its impact on pets. Links to these resources are provided at the end of the article.
Origins of COVID-19
The exact source of the COVID-19 virus remains unknown. Experts believe that the virus originated from bats and may have passed through an intermediary animal source in China prior to being transmitted to humans. Since then, the virus has adapted to humans and can now efficiently spread from human-to-human.
COVID-19 and Pets
The current spread of COVID-19 is the result of human-to-human transmission. Despite the large outbreak in humans, there is currently no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease or become sick.
There are two reports of dogs in Hong Kong that tested positive for COVID-19 – a 17-year-old Pomeranian and a 2-year-old German Shepherd. Both of these dogs had close exposure to their owners who were sick with COVID-19. Neither of these dogs showed any signs of illness. The Pomeranian subsequently tested negative for COVID-19 on March 12th and 13th and was released from quarantine on the 14th. Sadly, 3 days later the dog died. Although a post-mortem was not performed, as per the owner’s wishes, the dog never showed signs potentially related to COVID-19. Additionally, the elderly dog had other underlying medical conditions and it is considered highly unlikely that the virus had anything to do with the dog’s death.
According to experts, both of these dogs are thought to be a case of human-to-dog transmission. The risk a positive dog poses to other animals, including people, is unclear. Data is still limited, and further studies are underway to understand if, and how, COVID-19 affects animals. However, currently there is no evidence that pets play a role in the spread of COVID-19.
Precautionary Measures around Pets
Although there is currently no evidence that pets play a significant role in this human disease, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.
As a precautionary measure, it is currently recommended that people with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, should follow similar recommendations around animals as they would around people. When possible, people should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.
Pet Illness following Exposure to COVID-19
Currently, there is no evidence that pets or other animals can become ill after exposure to the virus, so their illness is most likely unrelated. If your animal develops respiratory illness, talk to your veterinarian about other more common respiratory pathogens and other conditions that could be the cause of their illness. If you feel that your pet needs veterinary care, call your veterinarian before going to the clinic. This will help your veterinarian assess the situation and determine if your pet needs to be seen.
Scott Weese, Worms and Germs Blog: https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/
Canadian Food Inspection Agency: https://inspection.gc.ca/covid-19/questions-and-answers/eng/1584648921808/1584648922156#q2
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/coronavirus-covid-19