Coronavirus and your pet — what you need to know

For many of us, our everyday lives have changed dramatically, suddenly, as the coronavirus pandemic has swept the world, crossing continents, invading communities large and small.

Although there are hundreds of existing coronaviruses in humans and animals, this brand-new “novel” coronavirus has never been seen before and has proven to be highly contagious among humans.

It is only natural that people question if their dogs and cats are also at risk. Diseases spread from animals to people are called “zoonotic.”

At this time there are no confirmed reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. There is no information that suggests dogs or cats might be a source of infection to people.

What can you, as a pet owner, do in the face of a potential crisis in your own home? What if you, the owner, tests positive? Worse, what if you become severely ill?


In case you might need to be home-quarantined, please keep at least two weeks of pet food and your pets’ medication(s) on hand at home.

Veterinarians are essential workers and most clinics are open to help you. Call your veterinarian if you need advance medication.

Should you test positive, have arrangements in place to limit your contact with your pet(s) just as you would limit contact with other family members. It is recommended that you not pet, kiss, hug, or share food with your pet during your quarantine period.

If you have a service animal (please refer to CDC guidelines for definition of service animals) or you, yourself, must care for your pets, please wear a cloth face covering and try to minimize contact, washing your hands well before and after pet contact.

You should not share any dishes, drinking glasses, towels, clothing or bedding with your pets during this time.

The coronavirus is primarily spread from an infected person’s bodily fluids, like saliva or mucous when they cough or sneeze.

Secondary transmission is possible if you touch a countertop or surface that is moist with infected sneeze or cough droplets. A smooth, nonporous surface like a countertop transmits better than a porous and fibrous surface like pet fur.

Again, at this time, per the CDC, there is no evidence that companion animal pets can spread the coronavirus to people. Pets are an important part of our lives and give joy and comfort, especially during a time of home isolation.

There is no reason, at the moment, to remove pets from a coronavirus positive house unless the owner becomes too sick to care for the pet and no other family member is available.

Should the owner be unable to care for a pet, and has no family to take it in, then the community will need to step in to help. Contact your veterinarian, a local Humane Animal group or your local Animal Shelter for service under these extreme circumstances.


Despite the global cases of 2.1 million people being infected with the coronavirus as of April 17, at this time the AVMA is only aware of four animals worldwide testing positive : two dogs and one cat in Hong Kong, and a tiger in New York.

We do know in the case of the two dogs and housecat in Hong Kong, the pets lived in very close contact with a positive ill owner.

New York City’s Bronx Zoo had a Malayan tiger present with a cough and tested positive for the virus. A total of seven big cats in the collection had mild coughs. All recovered. They were not each tested because that required anesthetizing each animal, wherein the risks outweighed the benefits.

In this case the tigers’ caretaker was discovered to be asymptomatically positive and was shedding the virus. No other big cat in the collection was affected.

This has been an isolated incident, and it’s still under investigation.

Keep in mind, the domestic house cat is not a mini-tiger.

All of the house pets were asymptomatic. At this time, there is no evidence that house pets can spread the coronavirus to people and no pets or livestock have become ill with COVID-19 in the U.S. .

Please take appropriate steps to ensure your pets are safe and cared for during this time.

In the meantime, you can stay up to date on the coronavirus by following the American Veterinary Medical Association news online or reviewing the information on-site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

with a long distance, virtual hug,
Dr. Mc

Christine McFadden holds a license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery. She has cared for the family pets of Merced at Valley Animal Hospital for more than 30 years.

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