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Can my dog or cat get coronavirus?

By Lea Jaratz

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Many pet owners are concerned over the recent outbreak of coronavirus, especially as there seems to have been some concern that the virus originated from contact with a wild animal. We’re going to explain what coronavirus means, and everything you need to know about how it might affect your cat or dog.

What is coronavirus?

The term “coronavirus” is a blanket term that covers a family of viruses. Most coronavirus strains cause only mild symptoms, like that of a common cold. A few coronaviruses, (SARS and MERS) can be lethal. The virus you’re hearing about now, originating in China’s Wuhan province, is specifically COVID-19 and is lethal in a small percentage of cases.

Can pets get coronavirus?

Data indicates that no, your dog or cat cannot spread the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and is not at risk of getting sick from the coronavirus. While there was one case where a dog was quarantined  after a low-positive test result for COVID-19, his owner also tested positive and the dog showed no symptoms.

However, there are different coronaviruses that can affect dogs or cats individually. Feline enteric coronavirus (FIP) and canine coronavirus are similar. These typically cause mild respiratory or digestive distress, though they may mutate and can cause death in extreme cases. However, these viruses are different from COVID-19 which we’re currently concerned about in humans. 

Can I get coronavirus from my pet?

Historically, coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS, have not been known to spread between humans and dogs or cats. According to the CDC, "While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China. There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus."

However, research on COVID-19 is still developing, and while your pet may not be infected, it’s possible that they may be able to further spread diseases. It’s always wise to wash your hands well with soap after touching your pet. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or face after touching any animal until you’ve had a chance to wash your hands. Exercise extra caution, cleaning your pet’s dishes, bedding, and toys regularly, and throw away potentially-contaminated items.

Should I avoid interacting with pets if I am sick with COVID-19?

While there have been no cases of pets becoming ill from this strain of the coronavirus, you should still take precautions. If possible, have friends or other members of your household take care of the pets while you are sick. The CDC recommends that you, "avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a face mask."

How can pet parents prepare for coronavirus?

It’s better to plan ahead for the possibility of a coronavirus-related quarantine. In the event your local government or health agency implements a quarantine, you’ll want to make sure you have enough of your pet’s food and medication for several weeks.

Our understanding of the new coronavirus epidemic is changing daily, if not hourly. Please follow reputable news sources for the best advice on how to keep yourself and your pet safe and healthy.

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