Note: See April 1, 2020 Update for the latest on Pets & the Coronavirus.
If you’re like me, your pets are part of your family. I take my two terriers (pictured above) to all sorts of places, including doggie daycare as well as obedience and scent training. So, what do we know about dogs, cats, and coronavirus? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the journal Science, vet hospitals, and universities have provided some useful answers for the burning questions from pet parents.
Here’s the bottom-line based on my review of these scientific-based articles — I read so you don’t have to!
- How should you prepare in terms of pet care for the coronavirus situation? Now is an excellent time to stock up on pet food and any pet medications (like those flea & heartworm preventatives), so if you’re quarantined, you have enough for several weeks. And it’s also an excellent time to develop a backup plan for pet care should you get sick, whether that be a friend, relative, neighbor, or kennel.
- If you have coronavirus, could you pass it on to your pets? Possible, but unlikely based on what we know now. One dog did test positive in Hong Kong, and this did receive quite a bit of publicity. Subsequent results, however, indicate this was a very weak positive and as stated by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Veterinary College: “There is still no indication that pets can shed the virus or get sick from the virus at this time.” That being said, as in the catchphrase these days, “an abundance of caution,” experts are still saying that it is best if you limit your interaction with pets, including skipping those puppy kisses, if you have the coronavirus. [See April 1, 2020 Update for More Current Information.]
- If you are ill with the coronavirus, and you snuggle with your pet, can the pet then pass it on to someone else? Maybe. The CDC recommends taking actions similar to how you interact with people with pets if you’re ill — that is, you have coronavirus symptoms. The preference is that you are separated from your pet just like you would be from humans. If this is not possible, as is the case with service dogs, for example, then you need to take other actions including washing your hands before and after petting, snuggling, get kissed or licked, and sharing food. While there is little concern that the pet could become ill, there is a slight concern that another person who interacts with your pet after you could catch the coronavirus if the pet has the virus on them. But this result is much less likely to occur than with human to human exposure. But, as indicated by the researcher making this statement, still cough into your elbow, not onto your dog.
- Is canine coronavirus (CCoV) the same as the coronavirus (COVID-19)? NO! There are many kinds of coronavirus, and while CCoV is an intestinal infection that impacts puppies, it does not impact people and is not the same as COVID-19.
- Can pets be tested for the coronavirus? Should my pet get any vaccines? At least some vets are expected to have the ability to test for the coronavirus, but given the delay in the availability of human kits, I’d take that with a grain of salt. There is not coronavirus vaccine available for pets or humans now, nor is one expected to be available for months. The closest existing pet vaccines that address respiratory (breathing) diseases include Bordatella (canine cough), parainfluenza, and canine influenza. My dogs have the Bordatella and canine influenza vaccines already as they are required by the kennel they go to, so yours may as well.
That, as best I can determine, is all we know as of now on dogs and cats and the coronavirus. I will update this article should new information appear from the scientific and veterinary community. For now, let’s keep everyone — humans and pets — safe.