As the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to unfold, there are still many more questions than answers about where it came from and how it spreads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the exact source of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the brand-new virus that causes COVID-19—is still unknown, although evidence suggests that it may have originated with an animal, most likely a bat in a live animal market
Based on what researchers have discovered thus far about SARS-CoV-2, the virus seems to primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets that become airborne when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms play a key role in its transmission.
What About Animals?
If you’re a pet owner, you might be wondering whether your dog or cat can become infected with COVID-19 and then transmit the virus to you. Further studies are needed in order for scientists to gain a better understanding of whether and how animals could be affected by COVID-19. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals play a significant role in its transmission or that SARS-CoV-2 can spread to people or other animals from a pet’s fur or skin.
A relatively small number of animals around the world are reported to have contracted SARS-CoV-2 after having close contact with an infected human. However, based on the limited information available to date, the risk of pets spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
Protect Your Pet
Until more is known about how SARS-CoV-2 affects animals, you should take appropriate steps to protect your pet from exposure and possible infection, just as you protect your family members and other people. Here are some ways you can safeguard your pet:
- Don’t allow your pet to interact with people and other animals outside your household.
- Keep your cat indoors, if possible.
- When walking or otherwise spending time outdoors, keep your dog on a short leash and practice social distancing by maintaining at least 6 feet of space between your dog (and yourself) and other people and animals outside your household.
- Avoid dog parks and other public places where many people and dogs often gather.
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms or are confirmed to be infected through testing, avoid contact with your pet (if possible, ask someone else in your household to care for your pet until you have recovered and are no longer contagious).
Based on what is known about other coronaviruses, an animal infected with COVID-19 may exhibit respiratory symptoms or gastrointestinal distress. If your pet appears to be ill, contact a veterinarian.
What If Your Pet Is Infected?
According to the CDC, veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness in animals before considering COVID-19 testing, which is currently recommended only for pets that have symptoms and have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
If your pet tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, you should take the same precautions you would if a human member of your household were infected, with one exception: Don’t put a face covering on your pet, as it could be harmful. Otherwise, keep your pet at home and in a separate room, away from other members of your household (both humans and animals). Wear gloves when touching your pet or its food, bedding, toys, or waste, and wash your hands afterward. If your pet develops new symptoms or seems to be getting worse, contact your veterinarian.
Of the relatively small number of dogs and cats confirmed to have had COVID-19, some didn’t become ill at all, and those that did exhibited only mild symptoms and could be cared for at home. No special COVID-19 treatment was necessary.
If you have questions about COVID-19, contact PhysicianOne Urgent Care. We offer COVID-19 testing every day at all locations.