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COVID-19 and our Pets

by | Jul 31, 2020 | A Time for Paws

Some helpful advice for your furry family members.

We live in a very different world these days with the Covid-19 pandemic around. It has changed how we interact with each other and how we interact with our pets. The good news is that there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be spread from our pets to us (their caregivers). As of today, there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 transmission from dogs or cats to people.

There have, however, been several reports of Covid-19 being spread from people to animals. There was a report this spring of a big cat at the Bronx Zoo getting Covid-19 from an animal handler who worked at the zoo and a few of the other big cats got mild upper respiratory infections, as well. They all improved quickly and are back to normal. Also, there have been a handful of reports of dogs and of cats testing positive for Covid-19, but none of them getting very sick. If they catch Covid-19, they seem to get mild upper respiratory signs; in other words, a mild cough or sneeze with possible runny eyes. All of these infections have been short-lived and improved in a few days with no treatment.

We also need to keep in mind that there are lots of types of bacteria and other viruses out there that will cause runny eyes and/or sneezing in dogs and cats. So, if one of our pets gets an upper respiratory infection and no one in the house has Covid-19, then it is highly unlikely that the cause of the upper respiratory infection is related to Covid-19. On the other hand, if a family member has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and one of you pets comes down with some breathing or coughing/sneezing issues, then you should take your pet to your local veterinarian who can test for causes of infection, including Covid-19. The take home from this is that if someone in your house is diagnosed with Covid-19, he needs to isolate himself from other people in the house to prevent spread of the virus, and he should isolate himself from his pets, as well, to keep the pets healthy, even though the risk is very low. (With 76 million cats and 68 million dogs in the US and 4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in people, we have seen only a handful of dogs and cats with Covid-19, so the risk is extremely low.)

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19 in people to come out soon. It appears that only with a vaccine will life as we knew return. In the meantime, wash…wait…wear. Take care and be safe!

Dick Hay

Dr. Dick Hay is a veterinarian at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Davidson and has lived in Davidson since 1989 with his wife Pam, a retired Davidson College biology professor. They raised two wonderful children in Davidson, Sarah and Ben. Dr. Hay is a Davidson College graduate from the Class of 1977 and received his MS and DVM degrees from the University of Georgia. He is active in the community, having served on several nonprofits boards, including many years with the Davidson Housing Coalition. 

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