Although COVID-19 remains primarily a human-to-human disease, various other species including felines and canines have tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact.
- The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.
- Pets can get serious illness from infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but this is extremely rare.
As of April 19, 2020, the only pets incidentally exposed to the COVID-19 virus that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 infections are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong. In each of these cases, the pet was in close contact with people who had also been confirmed to have a COVID-19 infection. Additionally, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been multiple reports of zoo animals like lions, tigers, gorillas, snow leopards, and hyenas being infected with the virus. Despite all of this, with proper medical care, the number of animals that have died after getting the COVID-19 virus is low, and, like humans, predisposed conditions can cause certain animals to experience more severe illness and respiratory disease.
How Does the COVID-19 Virus Affect Animals?
As mentioned earlier, pets can get seriously ill from COVID-19, but this is extremely rare. It is important to practice good hand hygiene amidst this coronavirus pandemic, but when it comes to your furry companions, make sure to keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer far from their reach. Do not wipe or sanitize your pet with any disinfectant products. Many cleaning products such as bleach, bathroom cleaners, mouthwash, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer contain hydrogen peroxide which is toxic to pets. If your pet makes close contact with products containing hydrogen peroxide, they may experience gastrointestinal signs of illness which can include vomiting or poor appetite. In some cases, hydrogen peroxide poisoning in pets can later cause something more serious such as a gastrointestinal illness or other medical conditions. If your pet experiences any of these symptoms, contact your pet’s medical provider right away.
COVID-19 Vaccination for Your Pets?
Some zoos have adopted the use of experimental COVID-19 vaccines for animals made by animal health companies like Zoetis. However, public health officials say that it is still far too early to determine the effectiveness of these vaccines and whether or not they are even completely necessary. Negative reactions to the vaccines have not been found in the animals that were vaccinated. In the end, it is important for both public and animal health for all humans to be vaccinated in order to end the COVID-19 pandemic!
Can Pets Spread COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the risk of animals spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus is very low, but it is still recommended that pet owners do not allow their pets to have direct contact with unvaccinated people outside the household. Although there is limited evidence that shows animals are spreading diseases to people, there are still potential risks to be concerned about when elderly people or young children come in contact with pets. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get COVID from other outside germs the animals might carry. That’s why it’s important for your animal to social distance with other pets and people outside of the household. However, if your pet shows any COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy (unusual lack of energy or sluggishness), sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge, vomiting, diarrhea), contact your veterinarian right away. Do not put a mask on them; this could harm your pet.
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