Learn if animals can get coronavirus, if they can be a carrier and how to take care of your pet if you have COVID-19.

Lauren Wicks
Updated April 08, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is sure to be a historical period none of us will ever forget. We are all figuring out how to navigate life in a whole new way and comply with federal and local standards to stay safe. One thing that doesn’t seem very clear, however, is how to take care of our pets during this time of uncertainty—and if we need to take any further precautions to keep them (and ourselves) safe. Here's what you need to know about owning a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Can Animals Get the Coronavirus?

The first confirmed animal case in the US was in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Six other big cats at the zoo were also exhibiting similar symptoms. It is believed that the tiger contracted the illness from an infected human.

Animals can get certain types of coronaviruses, but there are no known cases of other domestic pets (dogs and cats) in the United States associated with the current COVID-19 outbreak. The American Veterinary Medical Association states that domestic dogs and cats are not readily infected by COVID-19, and that there is no evidence supporting whether they experience symptoms or can spread the illness to other pets or humans. Though there have been cases of dogs and cats falling ill internationally, they are rare. Veterinarians do not think the virus will spread in house cats, as a result.

Can Pets Be a Carrier or Source of Infection?

We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now primarily spreading from person to person. The CDC reports that there is no known evidence that companion animals, such as pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they are a source of outbreak in the US. Per the CDC, "There is no evidence at this time that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets."

Outside of the US, there have been a small number of pets, including some cats and dogs, that have contracted COVID-19 after close contact with a human with COVID-19. There is no evidence to support that imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States. We're still learning more about this virus, so more research is needed to see how COVID-19 may affect animals.

Related: Feeling Lonely? There's Never Been a Better Time to Foster or Adopt a Pet

What to Do If a Pet Has Come in Contact with Someone Who Has COVID-19

Don't panic if you find out your pet has been around someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Keep practicing proper hygiene, healthy lifestyle behaviors and social distancing to best prevent COVID-19, as there is actual research behind these preventative methods recommended by the CDC.

It's not a bad idea to continue to practice social distancing with your animals as well. Keep them on a leash when out in public, and be sure to give others six feet of space between them and your pet. You may want to avoid petting or touching other people’s pets to minimize physical contact or wash your hands afterwards. 

How to Protect Your Pet If You Get the Coronavirus

Though there is no evidence your pet can get the coronavirus if you've tested positive, the CDC advises you should restrict contact with animals if you get sick until more information is known about the virus. Have another family member take care of your pet, if possible, and avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food.

If you live alone and you've tested positive for coronavirus, it's important to wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet and wear a face mask if you can. Additionally, wearing gloves could be a good way to interact with your pet if someone else can't help.

Related: How to Make Your Own Sanitizing Solution at Home

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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