As businesses, states, and entire countries are being shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, you are likely wondering how this respiratory illness can affect you and your pet. As this situation is rapidly evolving, we recommend searching the following sources for accurate, up-to-date information, rather than turning to social media:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
For specific questions regarding your pet’s health, contact your family veterinarian or ask our team.
To help clear up any confusion you may have COVID-19 and the effects it may have on your family and pets, here are the key facts you need to know.
What are coronaviruses and how is COVID-19 different?
Coronavirus infections are common in people and animals, and are mostly species-specific, but some strains can be transmitted between species. In people, coronaviruses cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious conditions, such as SARS and COVID-19. Here are the key differences in feline, canine, and human coronaviruses:
- People — In people, coronaviruses cause respiratory symptoms, including coughing, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, sneezing, and fever.
- Dogs — There are two main coronavirus strains in dogs—the enteric form, which causes diarrhea, and which most dogs recover from without aid, and the respiratory form, which has been associated with some cases of kennel cough.
- Cats — In cats, feline coronavirus also tends to cause mild diarrhea. In rare cases, the virus can mutate and lead to feline infectious peritonitis, which is almost always fatal.
COVID-19 appears to be a human-specific coronavirus, causing fever, tiredness, and a dry cough, but may escalate to aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. People with severe cases will have difficulty breathing.
Is my pet at risk for COVID-19?
As a pet owner, you have likely heard about the dog in China who tested positive for COVID-19. The dog in question tested a “weak positive,” and had been living with an infected person, but after being quarantined, the dog showed no illness signs, and gradually displayed negative results with further testing. The testing method did not indicate whether the samples contained intact virus particles, which are infectious, or only RNA fragments, which are not contagious.
Based on these reports, CDC, WHO, and OIE infectious disease experts agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, or to people. But, as this situation is constantly updating, you should remain current with the sources listed above.
How can I keep my pet and family safe from COVID-19?
Since COVID-19 appears to be spread most readily by person-to-person contact, follow these steps to avoid infection:
- Avoid people who are sick, or if you are ill.
- Contact your physician if you have a fever, or are experiencing respiratory issues.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Wash your hands often, using soap and hot water, for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Practice social distancing, and avoid gathering in large groups.
While the CDC states that washing your hands after handling animals is always a good idea, focus on hand-washing more often if you are caring for a pet who lives with a sick person. If you are sick with COVID-19, have someone else care for your pet. Avoid kissing, hugging, or sharing food with your furry friend, and have a healthy friend or family member walk, feed, and care for your pet. Although there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19, or become infected with this disease, these are good practices to follow, to ensure the safety of your family, furry or otherwise.
What should I do about my pet’s dental care?
We are still here to help your pet with any dental needs that arise. If your pet is uncomfortable, has problems eating, or needs restorative oral surgery, these issues can’t wait, and we recommend scheduling an appointment. Since you will be spending more time at home with your pet, now is a great time to brush up on his or her at-home dental care regimen to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, and to keep your pet’s teeth as healthy as possible. We also recommend stocking up on your pet’s dental diet, because of the uncertainty surrounding shipping, and quarantine measures.
If your pet is exhibiting any illness signs, contact your family veterinarian immediately. For questions about your pet’s dental health, contact us.