For humans, the official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is clear. If you’re displaying symptoms of COVID-19 – including a fever, a cough, or shortness of breath – you should contact your healthcare provider. You may need to self-quarantine for 14 days or take a test to establish if you have the virus. In serious cases, you may require medical attention or emergency care.
To prevent further spread of the virus, it is recommended we wash our hands for 20 seconds on a regular basis, ensure we cough or sneeze into a tissue, and avoid touching our faces.
With the sense of concern sweeping the globe, it is only natural for us to worry about the health of our pets. With this in mind, the CDC has published guidance on how to interact with animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In this article, we’ll summarize the latest guidance on how we should act around our dogs and the best ways to keep all family members – including our four-legged friends – safe and healthy.
Can dogs get the coronavirus?
The World Health Organization’s latest communication states that there is no evidence that pets can be infected with COVID-19.
Although a report in Hong Kong at the beginning of March stated a dog may have contracted the coronavirus, the infection was described by the Hong Kong government as ‘low-level’. Despite the ‘weak positive’ test for coronavirus, the dog was not displaying any symptoms of the virus and did not appear to be sick.
Commenting on the Hong Kong case to Science, Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, said, “There is no research to support human to animal spread at this time. Samples from the Hong Kong dog had a small number of virus particles present. In an animal with no clinical signs of disease, it’s hard to say what this means.”
The World Organisation for Animal Health states in their online Q&A on the coronavirus that “there have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease.”
Can dogs spread the coronavirus?
Although COVID-19 appears to have originated with an animal source in China, the virus is spread from person-to-person. Here is what the CDC says about pets spreading COVID-19:
“There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
Whilst there is no evidence of animals spreading COVID-19, it is recommended to thoroughly wash your hands after coming into contact with your dog – although this is sensible advice in any circumstances.
If I become sick with COVID-19, should I avoid contact with my dog?
If you fall ill with the coronavirus, you should limit contact with other humans and animals – if possible, by spending time in a different part of your home from other family members.
Although there are no reports of dogs becoming sick with COVID-19, it is recommended that humans diagnosed with the virus limit contact with their pets until more information is available about how the virus may affect animals.
The CDC has issued the following advice for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have pets in their home:
“When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick…avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.”
Do we need to take any specific precautionary measures to protect our dogs?
Although the risk to animals appears to be low at this stage, the situation is rapidly evolving.
Good hygiene practices – such as disinfecting frequently used surfaces, washing your hands regularly and making sure your dog’s food and water bowls are properly cleaned – should be observed.
If you are concerned at the prospect of self-quarantining and want to be ultra-prepared, it may also be prudent to stock up on your dog’s food.
What if my dog shows signs of sickness?
Bearing in mind the statements from global health organizations on the lack of evidence of animals contracting the virus, or falling sick as a result of it – you should use your usual discretion when it comes to the health of your dog.
As a starting point, we recommend speaking to your usual veterinarian who will be in the best position to help you. A test is available to see if your pet has COVID-19, although its availability will vary from area to area.
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 for either humans or canines at this time. Although dogs are vaccinated for canine coronavirus as puppies, this does not provide immunity for COVID-19.
If I am working from home and will be around my dog more than usual, should I take extra precautions?
Unless you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, you do not need to take any special precautions to protect your dog at your home.
Should I still visit public places - such as zoos, dog parks or rescue shelters?
You should make yourself aware of any federal, state or local restrictions on mass gatherings – for example, New York has instructed gatherings of 500 people or more to be postponed or canceled until further notice.
Some zoos will make their own decisions on closures. For example, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has announced a temporary closure to the public from Saturday, March 14. If you intend to visit a zoo in your area, check ahead before making the trip.
At dog parks and rescue shelters, it is wise to exercise caution, although there is currently no formal guidance prohibiting your visit. As previously advised, you should wash your hands regularly before touching common surfaces, avoiding touching your face, and cover your nose or mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Does my dog need to wear a face mask to protect it from COVID-19?
No, absolutely not. Ignore the Instagrammers and other social media posts which may indicate otherwise. A face mask may not protect your pet from disease transmission, and could lead to breathing difficulties.
Although COVID-19 is clearly a serious public health matter, at this point, there is little evidence that it can seriously harm our dogs.
Whilst there is no need to panic, we should also be sensible and cautious in our approach to tackling the coronavirus and playing our part to ensure we limit its spread as much as possible.
Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend the following steps (and these are great points to follow, whether you have a dog or not)
- Regular hand washing, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
- Use a tissue to cover your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough – and then dispose of the tissue
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Refrain from handshakes
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces which are used on a regular basis
- If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 – such as a fever, a cough or shortness of breath – contact your healthcare provider. Stay home and self-quarantine if necessary.
Together, we can all play our part to flatten the curve. This will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – to humans and canines alike.
This article was originally published on March 13, 2020. We will strive to keep the information within this article updated as it becomes available.
For the latest guidance on COVID-19 and the impact on animals, please visit the CDC’s dedicated section at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#animals.