Thanks to social media and countless news sources, accessing information on the web is as easy as a click of your mouse. But the internet, while a wonderful way to gain knowledge, is also rife with misinformation. You have likely come across some articles or posts discussing the involvement of animals in the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are here to help you separate fact from fiction, so you can better understand your pet’s role in transmission and infection of this novel virus. Consider the following statements, keeping in mind that new information is emerging daily:

Pets are at risk for contracting COVID-19.

Fact: In our previous post, we mentioned several animals, including a handful of domestic pets, and large cats at the Bronx zoo, who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the disease known as COVID-19. Since then, two more domestic cats in New York state recently tested positive after showing signs of mild respiratory disease. While the amount of positive cases in animals is negligible, the fact that non-human species are becoming infected with the novel coronavirus is worthy of attention. 

SARS-CoV-2 causes serious disease in animals.

Fiction: Fortunately, the reports of SARS-CoV-2-positive animals describe mild respiratory signs, or no disease signs at all. You may also have heard about a geriatric dog in Hong Kong who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and later died; this dog, however, was 17 years old, and had significant underlying health problems, with no indication that this pet died as a result of COVID-19-related illness. All other reported animal cases are expected to make full recoveries. 

Cats are a leading cause of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Fiction: Based on the little knowledge that we have regarding COVID-19 and pets, the feline species appears to possibly be more susceptible to infection than other animals, such as dogs, or other zoo life. Early experimental studies of SARS-CoV-2 in animals, as summarized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, suggest that “ferrets, Syrian hamsters, and cats—all animals that may be kept as pets—show early potential for serving as animal models of human infection, but dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks do not.” Despite the fact that felines may be predisposed to infection, no definitive evidence has currently been found that cats, or other species, are acting as intermediate hosts, or are capable of spreading the virus to humans. 

All pets should be tested for COVID-19.

Fiction: In March 2020, mass testing of domestic dogs and cats by a leading veterinary diagnostic company revealed no positive test results, an early indication that human-to-animal SARS-CoV-2 transmission was unlikely, and the overwhelming majority of dogs, cats, and other pets do not need to be tested for the virus. But, if your pet is showing respiratory disease signs, contact our Animal Medical and Surgical Hospital team for guidance. In general, the criteria for SARS-CoV-2 testing in pets, as recommended by IDEXX laboratories, are as follows:

  • “Pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19, or has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus”
  • “Pet has already been tested for more common infections, which a veterinarian has ruled out”
  • “Petespecially cats and ferretsis showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19”

We should help our pets practice social distancing.

Fact: While animals do not appear to play a large role in the SARS-CoV-2 transmission, current guidelines advise that pets practice social distancing recommendations out of an abundance of caution. When out walking, always keep your dog on a secure leash, and maintain a six-foot distance between your pet and other people and animals. Whenever possible, keep cats indoors. Refrain from using off-leash dog parks, and postpone doggie play dates and classes, until more is known about pets and COVID-19.

As more studies are performed, we should have a better understanding of the role animals play in SARS-CoV-2 transmission and infection. We recommend that you adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for your pet’s COVID-19 safety. Our doors and phone lines remain open for your pet’s needs, but our protocols have changed, to keep you, your pets, and our team members safe. Call us if you have questions, or would like to set up an appointment.