COVID-19 and Pets – What You Need To Know Now

by | May 4, 2020

COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our lives and will continue to for many months. When it comes to the virus, there are plenty of questions to be asked, so here are a few answers:

How is COVID-19 spread?

Although it has been theorised that the new coronavirus emerged from an animal source, the pangolin, the current main known route of transmission is human-to-human. 

At present, the spread of COVID-19 appears to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs or when they come into contact with infected sputum (hand-to-mouth transmission).

Can cats and dogs get coronavirus?

There are species-specific coronaviruses that affect dogs and cats, but it is essential to realise that these are not the same as the COVID-19. The strains that affect cats and dogs can cause mild gastrointestinal signs and, very rarely, can lead to a disease in cats called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). 

There is a vaccine available for the canine form of coronavirus. This vaccine should not be used for prevention of COVID-19 as the viruses are distinctly different.

Can I get coronavirus from my pet?

No. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread from a pet to a human. Transmission appears to occur via a human touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose and possibly eyes. Smooth surfaces such as a countertop or a door handle transmit the virus better than porous materials such as paper and clothing. At this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. 

Can pets contract COVID-19 from humans?

Currently, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive to the virus are two pet dogs in Hong Kong and two pet cats (one in Belgium and the other in Hong Kong). In all of these cases, these pets were in the direct care of someone who had confirmed COVID-19. It was only in the case of the cat in Belgium that there was any suggestion of the pet showing clinical signs of the disease, but it is essential to understand that other diseases that could have caused the same symptoms were not ruled out. This cat has since recovered. According to the World Health Organisation, there is currently no evidence that pets can transmit COVID-19. 

What should pet owners do?

The best way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to adopt sufficient hygiene measures and maintain social distancing. This includes washing your hands before and after handling animals. The Centre for Disease Control recommends that people who are sick, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, should restrict their contact with animals (this means avoiding cuddling, kissing or being licked by your pet) until further information about the virus is available. There is no reason to remove pets from their homes if COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household. 

If your pet is unwell, or you have any questions regarding your pet’s health you should always contact us for advice. 

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