We understand that you may have many questions regarding COVID-19 and your beloved pets. During this time of uncertainty and anxiety, we are here to help you and your family to the best of our ability. As COVID-19 is such a novel disease, little is known about its effect on our furry friends, but we will continue to update you as we learn more.
What we know about COVID-19 and pets
COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is a virus belonging to the coronaviridae family, which encompasses many strains of coronaviruses, including those that cause the common cold in people, and certain diseases in animals. COVID-19 is considered a novel coronavirus, in that it has never been previously identified. Typically, coronaviruses do not jump from species to species, but the viruses that cause COVID-19, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) are three examples of coronaviruses that represent bat-to-human transmission.
Dogs and cats are susceptible to their species-specific coronaviruses, including Feline coronavirus (FCoV), the causative agent of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and Canine coronavirus (CCoV), which causes gastrointestinal disease. Neither are transmissible to humans, nor are they associated with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. While vaccines exist for the feline and canine strains, neither has been proven effective against SARS-CoV-2.
Recently, a domestic dog in China was tested for COVID-19 after his owner was diagnosed with the disease. While the dog did not exhibit any virus signs, his testing revealed “weak positive” results, which indicates the possibility of human-to-animal transmission, but this is purely speculative, and more testing is underway.
What we don’t know about COVID-19 and pets
Since SARS-CoV-2 is such a newly discovered virus, we are still learning the details about its transmission, its environmental stability, and the disease it causes. We know that infection can occur when a person inhales a respiratory droplet containing the virus after someone nearby who has the disease coughs or sneezes. The virus is also somewhat stable on surfaces, which means a person could become infected after touching a contaminated area, and then touching their nose, mouth, or eye.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 by any of these means. Additionally, while there is no evidence that the virus is spread from dogs or cats to humans, it is important to assume that pets can be disease vectors until we learn more.
Our recommendations about COVID-19 and pets
While domestic pets do not appear to be affected by COVID-19, or to be able to transmit the virus, information is limited, and we are therefore asking our clients to exercise an abundance of caution.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are exhibiting signs such as fever, cough, and lethargy, contact your physician or public health official immediately. In addition:
- Limit interactions with your pet, including cuddling, sleeping, licking, or sharing food.
- Wear a facemask when you must interact with your pet.
- Take your pet outdoors for leash-walking and elimination purposes only, and do not allow her to socialize with other animals or people.
- If possible, enlist a healthy helper to take care of your pets while you are sick.
If you are not ill, interact with your pet normally, but consider exercising the following precautions:
- Avoid bringing your pet out into public, if possible.
- If your service dog must accompany you on public outings, consider washing her paws and other body parts that come into contact with public surfaces when you return home.
- Consider sanitizing harnesses, collars, and leashes when you return home from an outing with your pet.
- Do not use alcohol-based sanitizers on your pet.
- Limit interactions with immunocompromised pets, such as cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), or Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).
If you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms, and your pet is also ill, please contact the Louisiana Public Health Department for guidance. If you are not experiencing symptoms, and need to schedule an appointment for your pet, please contact our office for guidance.
We are currently open and seeing patients, and to keep both you and our team safe and healthy, we are offering curbside care for your pet. Simply make an appointment, and when you arrive, stay in your car, and call us so we can come out to get your pet. After examining them, if we need to communicate with you regarding diagnostics or treatments, we will call you so we can formulate a plan together. Stay tuned for more information about our telemedicine app—releasing in the next few days—that will allow you to speak with our team regarding your pet’s care before, or without, bringing them in.