In early March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 novel coronavirus infection as a global pandemic. Since then, there has been widespread panic and anxiety all over the world that has led to a spread of misinformation. People are not only worried about their own health, but also about the health of their cats, dogs, and other pet animals. On social media as well many images and videos of dogs wearing face masks have popped up. This has further increased the worries of many pet owners about whether their pets can also get coronavirus, especially if the owner has tested positive for the virus. But should you have contact with your pet if you have the coronavirus disease? Let’s take a look.
Dealing With The Novel Coronavirus Infection If You Have Animals
Some types of coronaviruses are known to infect animals and then get transmitted to people, but this is known to be a rare phenomenon.
The first case of an animal having tested positive for the novel coronavirus was in the United States in March. A tiger at the New York City zoo tested positive and had respiratory distress.(1) However, there is no evidence from there that other animals in the zoo got infected.
According to the guidelines issued by the World Organization for Animal Health, out of the United States also there have been a minimal number of pets that have been infected with the novel coronavirus after coming in close contact with people who had the infection.(2)
In case if you have the disease, then what should you do about your pet?
Should I Have Contact With My Pet If I Have The Coronavirus Disease?
There have been no reports as of yet from the US about any pets becoming sick with COVID-19 from their owner. However, two pet dogs in Hong Kong have tested positive for the infection. It was found that the dogs contracted the disease from their COVID-19 positive owners. These cases were characterized as being one of the first cases of human-to-animal transmission. Still, neither of the two dogs showed any symptoms of illness after testing positive for the virus.(3)
Nevertheless, health officials in Hong Kong have since then continued to test both dogs and cats of people who tested positive for the coronavirus infection. As of March 25, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department stated that the cases of the disease in dogs appeared to be infrequent. In total, the department conducted tests on 17 dogs and eight cats from the households of confirmed coronavirus cases or from people who were in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients. Out of this, only the earlier two dogs had tested positive for the virus.(4)
The officials further concluded that their findings indicated that cats and dogs do not get infected easily with the virus, and there was no evidence to suggest that they can transmit the virus further.
Globally with over one million human cases, there have so far only been four domestic animals that have tested positive worldwide.(5) Due to this, the risk is considered to be very minimal that your pet can catch the infection from you.
However, if you have tested positive and are under self-quarantine due to the coronavirus, then there are certain recommendations the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has put in place for pets.(6) These include:
Avoid direct contact and maintain separation with pets and other animals. This means that you should avoid petting, being licked or kissed snuggling, and sharing food with your pet. If you are ill, then it is prudent to make an alternative arrangement for someone to look after your pet.
If you are sick and there is no one else to take care of your pet, then you must ensure that you wash your hands properly before and after interacting with your pet.
Wear a face mask whenever you are around your pet.
Try to limit contact with your pet only during feeding times to reduce the chances of passing on the infection.
Conclusion: Keep a ‘Pet Preparedness Plan’ Ready
When you own a pet, their health and well-being are also your responsibility. If you are unwell, then it is best to have a ‘pet preparedness plan’ in place in case there is an emergency. This should include some essential tips, such as:
- Ensuring you have enough food and other products for your pet.
- Identifying a family member or friend who can take care of your pet in case you become severely ill or need to be hospitalized.
- Keep crates, food, and other extra supplies on hand to facilitate quick movement in case of emergency.
- Keep your pet’s vaccines up to date in the event that you need to send your pet for boarding
- If your pet is on some medication, then make sure all the medicines are well documented with dosages and administering instructions. You should keep their medical records handy to pass on in the event boarding becomes necessary.
- Keep an identification collar for your pet that has an ID tag.
In the face of millions of people being infected worldwide, there has been a handful of pets who have gotten affected by the novel coronavirus. While this indicates that the chance of infection from humans to pets is quite less, but it is still best to avoid contact with your pet if you are sick.
In case your pet also becomes ill, then instead of taking the pet to the veterinarian’s clinic yourself, it is best to call your vet and let them know that you have been sick with the coronavirus infection and your pet is also experiencing respiratory symptoms. Your vet will be able to evaluate your pet through telemedicine consultations or other alternate plans to determine the next steps for the pet’s treatment and care.
Above all, remember that your pet is completely relying on you for their safety and nobody knows your pet better than yourself. So if you feel that they are not feeling well, it is always better to consult your vet rather than take a chance with their health.
- BBC News. 2020. Tiger At US Zoo Tests Positive For Coronavirus. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52177586> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
- Oie.int. 2020. Questions And Answers On The COVID-19: OIE – World Organisation For Animal Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
- KQED. 2020. Can I Get COVID-19 From My Dog? 6 Questions About Pets And The Coronavirus Answered By Experts | KQED. [online] Available at: <https://www.kqed.org/science/1959951/can-i-get-covid-19-from-my-dog-6-questions-about-pets-and-the-coronavirus-answered-by-experts> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
- Info.gov.hk. 2020. Pet Dog Further Tests Positive For Antibodies For COVID-19 Virus. [online] Available at: <https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/26/P2020032600756.htm?fontSize=1> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
- American Veterinary Medical Association. 2020. COVID-19. [online] Available at: <https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html> [Accessed 14 April 2020].
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