FDA Warns Dog Owners About Possibility of Infecting Pets with the Covid-19 virus

As those in the healthcare community, public health sector, our national and state leaders, and our own regional communities continue to learn about the Covid-19 virus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that in some cases, it appears that the virus may spread from people to their pets.

If you have symptoms or believe that you are sick with the virus, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s important that you limit contact with animals until further evidence develops regarding the novel coronavirus.

  • Although it will be extremely difficult, it’s recommended that you avoid contact with your pet dog or cat, including snuggling, sharing food, getting kissed or licked, and allowing your dog or cat to sleep with you on your bed or jump on your couch.
  • If you must be around your pets when you are sick with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, it’s crucial to wash your hands thoroughly before and after any interaction with your dog or cat, and be sure to wear a face mask or a cloth or scarf covering your face while doing so.
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  • If possible, have another family member or a good friend care for your pet while you’re sick.
  • Noting the small risk that people infected with Covid-19 could spread the virus to animals, the CDC recommends that pet owners limit or prevent as much as possible their pet’s interaction with people from outside their households.
  • If possible, keep pet cats indoors and keep them from roaming outdoors.
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  • Practice social distancing: when walking your dog on a leash, remain at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Do not put face coverings on your pets, since that is not safe and could cause them harm.
  • Do not bathe or wipe your pet with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, chemical disinfectants, or any other products that are not specifically approved for use on animals.

Common Questions:

  • Is it possible for the Covid-19 virus to be carried on pet fur or hair that could be spread to their human family members?  Though we still only have extremely limited data, and it’s known that particular fungi and bacteria can be carried on hair or fur, there is no evidence that viruses, including the novel coronavirus, can be transmitted to people from their pets’ fur, hair, or skin.  The risk of pets spreading the Covid-19 virus to people is thought to be low.
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  • Is Covid-19 testing available for dogs, and if so, should I have my dog tested for Covid-19?  Again, although there is still limited knowledge concerning transmission of the virus, it does appear that Covid-19 may spread from people to animals in some situations. especially after close contact with a person sick with COVID-19. However, the risk is thought to be low; further, the risk of transmission from an infected animal to another of the same species also appears to be low. Of course, however, if your dog or cat becomes sick, immediately call your veterinarian.  Important: If you are sick with Covid-19 and your pet becomes sick, do not take your pet to the vet or animal clinic yourself.  Call your vet, explaining that you have been sick with Covid-19 and that you’re concerned your pet may be sick with the virus as well.  Some vets are offering telemedicine consultations or have instituted other best-practice recommendations to have consultations for sick pets.
  • Which specific animal species can become infected by the Covid-19 virus?  Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the first animal confirmed as positive for the virus  was a tiger living in a zoo in New York on April 4, 2020. after showing signs of respiratory illness. Several additional tigers and lions were then confirmed positive for the virus, where public health officials believe the animals became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with SARS-CoV-2. All of the infected animals have fully recovered. Later in April, on April 22nd of this year, the CDC and the USDA confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 in two cats in two areas of New York state and were thought to be the first pets in the country to be found positive for the virus.  Both developed mild respiratory symptoms and were expected to fully recover.
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Recent research also found that cats, ferrets, and Syrian hamsters can be experimentally infected with Covid-19. In a laboratory setting, they have then been able to transmit infection to other animals of the same species. Such studies also found that chickens, pigs, and ducks did not appear to become infected with the virus, nor spread infection.

Further, data from one study suggested that cats and ferrets were more likely to become infected with the Covid-19 virus than dogs.  Data also have reported a small number of pets, including pet dogs and cats, that appeared to have become infected with the Covid-19 virus after having direct contact with a person known to be infected.

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The “Musings of a Cancer Research Advocate” and the “We Love Canines!” blogs contain my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any organization or employer with which I am affiliated.  All of the material provided on these blogs, including blog posts, images, messages, links, and any other material is provided on these blog sites for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is crucial that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your health and your specific medical history and current health status.   It is also crucial that you always seek the advice of your pet(s)’ veterinarian or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding your pet(s)’health and specific medical history and current health status.  Further, it is important that you never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it due to anything you have read on this blog or links provided.  Likewise, as your pet(s)’ caregiver, it is also crucial that you never disregard veterinarian medical advice or delay in seeking it due to anything you have read on these blogs or links provided.

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