COVID-19: What are the Risks for Pets?

A letter from Our Shelter Medical Director, Dr. Tomomi Lager, DVM

We know your family, like ours, has much going on these days, and it can be hard to keep current on the facts. One of the big questions I‘ve been asked lately as a veterinarian is: “Can our pets catch COVID-19 and give it to us?” While the full answer is a little complicated, the short answer is: “No.”

Fluffy and Fido are not a threat. 
Though there have been cases of a few non-human animals testing positive for COVID-19, there is no evidence so far that our pets can transmit this Coronavirus to us. There is also no evidence that objects associated with pets, such as collars, leashes, food or water dishes, can be fomites for COVID-19. To this point, the only cases where animals have contracted COVID-19 have been when they were in contact with a virus-positive human. All evidence suggests  COVID-19 being much better adapted to thrive in humans than in other species. There have been a couple of experimental studies (click here and here) to test infectiousness of the virus in other animals. To date, cats are found to be susceptible, but at low rates of illness, and dogs are found to have low susceptibility.

But what about the tigers and 2 kitties in New York? 
The lesson learned from the tiger at the Bronx Zoo and the two kitties is the same one we’d like you to take away from this. If you or anyone in your household is showing signs of illness (fever, cough, etc.) or has been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19, it’s best to avoid direct, close contact with your pets – especially cats and ferrets.

For additional information on COVID-19 and pets, we recommend these articles:

Two helpful tips to always do:

  • If you are free from COVID-19-related symptoms, good hygiene should be practiced around your pet, with hand washing before and after contact and feeding.
  • Continuously practice social distancing during walks and hiking.

And, one more important thing to keep in mind: Information and recommendations may change as our understanding of the virus and associated disease evolves, so be sure to visit: animalhumanenm.org/COVID-19/ regularly for new information.

Stay healthy & safe,
Dr. Lager