In countries all over the world, we are on our way to a so-called “new normality”. But the pandemic is not over yet, and COVID-19, as expected by the scientists, is going to be here for a while.
We know now more about the virus than two months ago, how it affects people, and what precautions we should take to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But what about the other members of our families – our pets? Can dogs and cats catch COVID-19? Is the virus as dangerous for pets as it is for people?
Read on to find out what is known so far when it comes to pets and COVID-19.
Can pets get COVID-19?
So far there are very few registered cases of animals that have contracted the virus.
The first known case was of a tiger from the Bronx Zoo. After collecting samples from the tiger and testing other big cats from the zoo, the results shown several lions and tigers with symptoms of respiratory illness. They were most likely infected by a caretaker that tested positive for COVID-19.
Afterward, there were several other reports about animals infected with the virus – two dogs and several cats from Hong Kong, Belgium, USA, France, Netherlands, and Spain.
At the beginning of May, the first case of a cat with coronavirus was reported in Spain. The pet was part of a family where several members were infected with COVID-19. The cat was brought to the vet with breathing problems and heart failure. As there was nothing to be done, the cat was put down. Later on, researchers performed a test and found out the cat was infected with coronavirus, but was also suffering from a genetic heart disease which could lead to sudden death. The conclusion was that even though the virus was found in the cat’s organs, the viral load was low and none of the cat’s problems were compatible with a COVID-19 infection.
Most pets infected with the coronavirus so far have only shown mild symptoms and didn’t need hospitalization or any serious treatment.
Preliminary studies suggest that cats are most most likely to be affected and that they can also infect other cats with the virus. Dogs, on the other hand, are susceptible to infection, but not as much as cats.
Although pets can get infected with the virus, scientists point that there is no evidence they can pass it on to humans.
How to protect your pets from COVID-19?
According to the CDC, pets that tested positive have been in contact with infected people. And as it is with people, the novel coronavirus appears to be more dangerous for animals already suffering from other conditions.
There isn’t enough evidence yet to know how exactly the virus affects pets but there are few precautions you can take to make sure your beloved companion is safe.
Here is what you can do to protect your pet from COVID-19:
Maintain proper hygiene: wash your hands before and after handling their food, grooming them, cleaning up their waste, or generally taking care of them. While outside with your dog, always carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol and use after picking up their waste. Upon getting back home, it’s a good idea to wash the dog’s paws just to make sure that no dirt or possible contaminated particles are getting into your home.
Avoid kissing your pet and sharing your food. We know you love them, but for the time being find other ways to show them. A lot of infected people are carrying the virus without showing any symptoms, so it’s best to limit physical signs of affection. And yes, your dog will be disappointed that you’re not as eager to be licked all over your face but such intimacy is probably not a very good idea right now.
Practice social distancing – keep your pet away from other people and animals. It might be hard to teach your dog social distancing so it’s best if you avoid dog parks, keep your dog on a leash while in public places and stay 6 ft away from people. Try not to let your dog sniffing other dogs, as well as being petted by other people. Your cat, on the other hand, probably won’t find social distancing too hard – but keep the kitty inside to avoid contact with other animals, just to be safe.
Don’t overcompensate with food and treats. Maybe you can’t provide the best possible care for your pet at the moment – no long walks and runs with your dog, no joyful chasing at the playground. Or maybe because you’re spending too much time at home, you’re indulging your cat with way too many treats. But overfeeding combined with less exercising can lead to weight gain and obesity which can lead to other health problems in the long term.
Limit all contact with your pet, if you’re infected with the virus. If possible, let another member of your household take care of your pet while you’re in quarantine or recovering. If not, try to maintain your distance, wear a face mask while near your pet, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Stock 2-weeks supply of pet food and medication, if needed. That way, if you have to be quarantined or someone else to take care of your pet, there won’t be a need for shopping or traveling to the vet clinic.
Don’t go straight to the clinic but call your vet first if you suspect that your pet is infected with COVID-19. Just like with people, try to avoid exposing others to the virus. The most common signs you should look for in your pet are coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, or loss of appetite.
And don’t worry – according to health officials it’s very unlikely a healthy animal would require hospitalization. Most pets are expected to show only mild symptoms and make a full recovery.
Should you be worried about contracting COVID-19 from your pet?
The short answer is no. As the CDC stated, “there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19”. The transition of the virus mainly occurs from person to person, or from touching contaminated objects or surfaces.
Just make sure to stick to the safety precautions to protect all humans and animals in your surroundings, and stay safe.