“We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.” –U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Updated April 4, 2020
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control provided this guidance on March 16th: “We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.”1
In a reply to questions about whether people should be concerned about pets and other animals and the novel coronavirus, the CDC made this statement, last reviewed on March 19th:
“While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China. 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. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.”2
Tragically, misinformation about the coronavirus epidemic when it was still confined within China led to people there abandoning their pets.3 A CNN article explained, “panic began among pet owners…when a 17-year-old Pomeranian in China tested ‘weakly’ positive for the coronavirus during quarantine, and then died three days after returning home. A second dog that lived in the same house, however, consistently tested negative during quarantine.”4 The chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh told CNN, “That was a weak positive in the dog. We don’t even know if that was a real positive.”4 CNN quoted the chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community, Dr. Dana Varble, as saying, “We don’t know what the dog died of because they didn’t do an autopsy, but this dog was extremely elderly and had multiple underlying conditions.”4
For some reason, rumor mills continue to spread the story about the 17-year-old Pomeranian. The CBC recently (April 3) took on a question about it for Canadian readers reminding them that vets in Hong Kong believed the dog’s death was caused by the anxiety and stress of being away from its family in quarantine. In response to the question about whether the virus can survive on pet fur, the CBC quoted Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist who stressed that there would have to be a substantial amount of the virus on the hands of the pet owner, saying, “We wouldn’t expect that much virus to transfer from fur, so beyond usual precautions I would worry about it.”7 That comes with a reminder “to cover your mouth with a tissue, sleeve or upper elbow if you cough or sneeze, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask if you have symptoms, and stay inside as much as possible.”7
Realistically, the concern for pets in the U.S. is that often people feel forced to surrender pets when they lose their jobs and can no longer make ends meet. The Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) of Washington, DC is putting out a call for adopters and foster homes as they rush to brace for the increase in surrendered pets and a potential decrease in staffing. HRA director of media relations, Sam Miller, said, “Generally, we are used to seeing increased intake when the economy declines, so that is a reality of what’s happening right now.”5
At this time of so many worries, we hope that this is one we can set aside. Take heart in the words of Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University, as he said to CNN: “I think the idea that we’re going to give this virus to our pets or we’re going to get it from them is just nonsense…This is not simply my opinion. I’m a virologist, an infectious disease doctor, and I’m just saying there’s no scientific evidence for that.”4
A veterinary laboratory company has already been working on a veterinary test system for COVID-19. IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. announced that it had tested thousands of dog and cat specimens while validating their new test system and had found no positive results to date of COVID-19. The company stated, “These new test results align with the current expert understanding that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus. For dogs or cats presenting with respiratory signs, the recommendation is to contact a veterinarian to test for more common respiratory pathogens.”6
For readers who are concerned, the CDC offers this guidance about your pets if you are sick with COVID-19: “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 them.”1
IDEXX made this assurance, “Pets are important members of our family, and we want to keep them healthy and safe. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 and pet health across our global IDEXX Reference Laboratories network as this situation evolves.”6
1CDC. Animals and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). 16 March 2020.
2CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Frequently Asked Questions. 19 March 2020.
3Coles, Amy. Thousands more pets could be abandoned in China over coronavirus, charities warn: False reports that animals carry the virus have already led many being deserted. The Independent. 15 March 2020.
4LaMotte, Sandee. Your pet won’t give your coronavirus, so hug away, experts say. CNN.com. 20 March 2020.
5Kashino, Marisa M. Humane Rescue Alliance Seeks More Adopters and Foster Homes: The DC animal shelter anticipates coronavirus will lead to an increase in surrendered pets. Washingtonian.com. 16 March 2020.
6IDEXX Laboratories. Leading Veterinary Diagnostic Company Sees No COVID-19 Cases in Pets. 13 March 2020.
7CBC News. Does the virus live on my pet’s fur? Your COVID-19 questions answered. 3 April 2020.
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