Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH & Anne Kimmerlein, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified. This virus is not the same coronavirus that can cause the common cold in humans, nor is it the same as canine coronavirus (CCoV) or feline coronavirus (FCoV).

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses characterized by crown-like spikes on their surface as seen under the microscope. There are many viruses in this family that cause various types of diseases in humans and animals, such as diarrhea and upper respiratory infections.

Can my pet be affected by COVID-19?

Rarely, people can infect dogs and cats with the virus that causes COVID-19 in people. However, there is no evidence that any animal or pet can infect humans with the new coronavirus.  At this time, it does not appear that dogs become sick from the virus, but some cats may become mildly ill with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. There are many illnesses that may cause similar symptoms in pets. If you are concerned about you dog or cat, call your veterinarian. 

"At this time, there is no evidence that any animal or pet can infect humans with the new coronavirus." 

Should my pet be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19?

If someone in your household has COVID-19 and your cat or dog becomes ill with symptoms consistent with infection, your veterinarian may decide to test your pet for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in people. Your veterinarian will work with your state’s public health veterinarian to decide whether a test is appropriate for your pet. Routine testing for well pets and sick pets that have not been exposed to a person with COVID-19 is not recommended at this time. 

If I get sick, is it safe for me to care for my pets?

If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you have Covid-19, public health officials recommend you restrict contact with pets and other animals.  If possible, have another member of your household care for your pet. If you have a service animal or you must provide care for your pet yourself, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them.

If you are not ill with COVID-19, you may interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking them on a leash, feeding them, and playing with them.

What if my pet shows symptoms (coughing, fever, chills) of human coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If your pet shows any signs of illness, such as coughing, sneezing or lethargy, call (or text) your veterinarian to arrange treatment. There are many different diseases that may cause similar symptoms in dogs and cats and your veterinarian can help provide an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Signs of illness in dogs and cats are usually associated with various common viral and bacterial infections (kennel cough, canine flu, etc.) that are neither coronaviruses nor transmissible to people.

Should my pet wear a face mask as a precaution?

No. First, it is unlikely that this will protect your pet from any potential disease transmission. Second, it can cause breathing difficulties, especially in certain breeds of cats and dogs. Third, masks must be saved for use in people with active signs of infection and medical professionals.

Is there a vaccine?

Currently, a vaccine for COVID-19 is not available. There is a vaccine for the canine coronavirus (CCoV), however, this vaccine does not work to protect you or your pet from COVID-19.

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