Can my pet get Covid-19?
The past 16 months have been tumultuous, trying and uncertain for many people and the fear of contracting COVID-19 has been a real concern. We are now deep into our third wave of this deadly virus and the question on many of our minds remains “Can my pets get COVID-19?”.
For many people, their pets have held them together during this pandemic. From becoming the new “office colleagues” to being their personal trainers who ensure they get out and exercise. Some even stepped in taking up the role of a therapist to help keep the anxiety at bay. They have helped us so much during this pandemic that it is only normal to be concerned for their well-being.
There is no evidence that domestic dogs or cats can be a source of spreading the COVID-19 infection to humans or other animals. There have been multiple studies conducted around this very topic, and only a few reported cases globally of domestic cats and dogs having being infected by the COVID-19 virus. According to those reports, all infected pets had belonged to people who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. These reported cases in pets have also been very mild with no recorded fatalities due to the virus.
Coronaviruses in pets
Many experimental studies have also shown that cats, ferrets, hamsters, monkeys, rabbits, and mink (all of which are fairly common domestic and exotic pets) are susceptible to infection from some of the different Coronaviruses. It is important to note that the Coronaviruses that affect our pets are not transmissible to people, so rest assured, you will not be at risk of contracting these viruses from your pets. Some examples of these:
Cats: Feline enteric coronavirus (FCoV) causes a mild or asymptomatic infection in domestic cats, and most signs are gastrointestinal-related. This widespread virus is more common in areas of higher cat numbers (catteries, shelters).
Dogs: Canine coronavirus disease (CCoV) is a highly infectious intestinal infection in dogs that is typically the result of crowding and unsanitary conditions. Symptoms range from mild diarrhea to severe debilitating inflammation of the small intestine.
How can I protect my pet from exposure to the COVID-19 virus?
As we have seen there is very limited evidence to support the risk of the COVID-19 virus infecting your pet, or that your pet could pass the virus onto another person. Regardless of the low-risk factor, it is always safer to ease on the side of caution and follow safety guidelines:
If someone has tested positive for COVID-19, it is advisable to keep their pets away from them as far as possible. However, if this is not possible, try to limit their close interaction with them.
If someone has tested positive for COVID-19, avoid contact with other pets and owners who have not tested positive, even if they all live in the same household. Try to self-isolate as best as possible.
If someone has tested positive for COVID-19 and has exotic pets such as ferrets and mink, it is advisable to keep their distance from them as far as possible as they are more susceptible than dogs and cats.
Avoid contact with pets and people from outside of your household. It is still okay to take your dog for walks on a leash but remember to maintain social distancing.
Always wash your hands after handling animals. If you touch a pet that is not your own, you should wash your hands before touching your pet.
Help by keeping your pets healthy with regular preventive care, a good diet, and regular exercise. The same way that we have to keep our immune systems in check, it is their first line of defense too.
Call your veterinarian at the first sign of illness in your pet.
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for cats and dogs?
While there is a canine coronavirus vaccine available, it is not effective against the COVID-19 Coronavirus. There is no COVID-19 vaccine available for pets at this time.
So in a nutshell to summarise all of this:
There is still no evidence that pets can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to humans, and the risk of human-to-animal transmission remains very small. As a precaution, keep them indoors and away from other pets and people. Social distancing saves lives.
As always, if your pet shows any signs of illness, such as coughing, sneezing, or lethargy, call your veterinarian immediately.