Questions and Answers About Pets and the Coronavirus

Mud Bay’s On-Staff Vet Discusses What to Do About COVID-19

Healthy Cats |  March 6, 2020

(Updated April 28, 2020, to reflect the diagnosis of a pug in North Carolina with COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a disease that is being passed between humans and affects humans. But I’ve heard from a lot of pet owners who are concerned about how their dogs or cats could be affected by this pandemic. While information is always changing—and I’ve updated this post numerous times to reflect that—here’s the most up-to-date information we have around pets and the coronavirus.

Can I get the coronavirus from my pet?

No. You cannot catch coronavirus from your dog or cat like you can from a human. COVID-19 can survive on a pet’s fur for a while (but the coronavirus prefers non-porous surfaces), but we now know that you’re most likely to catch the coronavirus from respiratory droplets from another person.

Can my pet get the coronavirus from me?

It’s highly unlikely, but a lot is still unknown about this novel virus. Idexx Laboratories tested over 3,500 pets and not one of them had the coronavirus. In many countries, pets are being tested if their owners are diagnosed with the coronavirus and the overwhelming majority are negative. In the United States, the USDA is keeping an updated list of all animals who test positive for COVID-19.

However, there are some cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19 in the news. Out of all the animals tested in the world, I’ve currently seen seven reports:

  • On February 26, 2020, a 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested weak positive for the coronavirus but showed no symptoms. The dog later died, and all reports indicate that the dog’s death was not related to COVID-19.
  • On March 18th, a 2-year-old German Shepard in Hong Kong also tested weak positive for the coronavirus but never developed any symptoms.
  • On March 18th, a cat in Belgium also displayed breathing difficulties and diarrhea after their owner had the coronavirus. The cat later tested positive for coronavirus is feces and vomit tests. Unfortunately, we don’t know if the cat’s symptoms were caused by the coronavirus, or if this cat ate food that was contaminated with the coronavirus by the owner.
  • On March 31st, a cat in Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19. The cat’s owner was COVID-19 positive, and the cat is being quarantined but has no symptoms of the disease.
  • On April 5th, a tiger in a New York Zoo showed clinical signs of a mild upper respiratory virus and tested positive for COVID-19. A zookeeper who cared for the tiger, and who was asymptomatic, is believed to have accidentally infected the tiger. As of April 22nd, eight big cats in the Bronx Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19. One of the cats tested showed no symptoms, and all the cats are expected to make full recoveries.
  • On April 22nd, two cats in New York tested positive for COVID-19. Both cats had mild symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery. These cases represent the first cases of pet COVID-19 infections in the United States, but the facts of these cases still indicate that it is very difficult for a cat to get COVID-19 and cats can not give COVID-19 to humans.
  • On April 28th news outlets reported that a dog in North Carolina had tested positive for the coronavirus. The family noticed that the dog had mild symptoms, and he has already fully recovered. According to reports, this dog was exposed to higher than normal levels of the coronavirus because he licked plates and slept in beds used by people who had COVID-19. The pug was tested by researchers from Duke University because some members of his family were diagnosed with COVID-19.

There’s also been a lot of scientific research surrounding the effect of COVID-19 on animals. You may have seen results from an experiment reported in the news where different animals were injected with high levels of COVID-19. Some animals, including cats and ferrets, who were injected were able to pass the infection to members of their own species. For example, an infected cat who was next to a healthy cat was able to infect the healthy cat, and both cats showed signs of the disease.

I want to make it clear that this type of research helps us better understand COVID-19, but it does not replicate how animals are infected with COVID-19 outside of the laboratory. We don’t know if the same results would occur if a cat was exposed to COVID-19 in a household setting, where the cat was infected by their owner.

The best way to protect your pet is to wash your hands when interacting with your dog or cat. If you are self-quarantining, ask another member of your household to care for your pet. Or wear a mask and wash your hands while feeding and caring for your dog or cat while you’re quarantining. Your pets should stay with you whenever possible when quarantining.

However, if your pets need to stay with someone else while you are sick, please isolate pets potentially exposed to the coronavirus from pets who haven’t been exposed for 14 days. This purely precautionary measure may not be necessary, but we’re still working to fully understand how natural infections between cats may possibly occur.

Is it safe to bring my dog or cat to public places?

The CDC is recommending that people stay home with their pets and practice social distancing. However, I also know that different pets have different socialization needs to prevent behavior problems, depression and anxiety. The risk of pets contracting the coronavirus is still very low at this time, even if they are in public places.

As a pet owner, you know your pet and the risk level for your area best. Mud Bay is still welcoming leashed pets in all our stores because we believe the threat to them is low. However, social distancing and following the guidelines for your specific area is still key to protecting the humans and animals in any public space.

My pet is coughing or has a runny nose, should I be concerned?

Thousands of dogs and cats get respiratory infections every year. These infections cannot be transferred to humans, but your pet still needs help! Call your veterinarian, so your dog or cat can get treatment.

Should I bleach or disinfect my dog or cat’s paws after they come inside?

Please don’t use household disinfectants or bleach on your dog or cat. Not only can these products give your pet chemical burns, but they’re not necessary at all! An animal’s paws are an inhospitable environment for COVID-19, so the risk of transferring anything is low. However, if you’re concerned, you can use a regular pet shampoo to wash your pet’s paws after they’ve been outside. If you want to use a disinfecting spray, Mud Bay sells Vetericyn Plus All Animal Wound & Skin Care Treatment that could be used on paws in place of washing them.

The same advice applies if your dog or cat has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. A bath in your tub or sink with soap and water is all you need, just like a human only needs to wash their hands.

Can coronavirus vaccines for animals prevent me from getting COVID-19?

Absolutely not. Taking any type of medication made for a dog, cat or other animal could have dire health consequences. It’s important to know there’s no known medication or vaccine—made for pets or people—that can prevent or cure the coronavirus.

Is there anything I should do to prepare in case I get the coronavirus?

The CDC is currently recommending keeping a 14-day supply of food, medication, and supplies for you and your pet on hand. Fourteen days is the recommended quarantine period in case you needed to quarantine or self-quarantine due to illness.

There’s no need to hoard pet food or supplies—in fact, we have plans to keep Mud Bay stores in stock—but consider keeping a couple of weeks extra food on hand. Also, if your dog takes medication to regulate a health condition, you might want to talk to your vet about getting an extra few week’s supply.

Anything else I should know about pets and the coronavirus?

Yes! I strongly believe that our pets are going to help us get through this difficult time. My dogs, cats and horses have been a great source of comfort to me and my kids while we’re staying at home. Studies indicate that pets not only decrease feelings of loneliness, but they decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and stress.

Now’s the time to interact more with your pet if you’re feeling healthy. Go for a walk, schedule plenty of playtimes, and don’t forget to have a few extra cuddle sessions with your dog or cat.

There have been dozens of news stories about people fostering and adopting pets right now in record numbers. If you have the time, space and resources to devote to a new pet, they could be the perfect counterbalance to what we’re seeing on the news.***

tabby cat gazing at panting black and white dog

Katy Patterson-Miller, DVM, CVFT is the Director of Dog and Cat Health and Nutrition for Mud Bay. Before joining Mud Bay in 2011 and focusing on small animal nutrition, Dr. Patterson-Miller enjoyed six years in emergency medicine and general practice. She is a graduate of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine with her clinical year spent at Louisiana State School of Veterinary Medicine.

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