As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues making headlines around the world, pet owners are worrying about the well-being of their pets. With so much misinformation online, our Vets have put together the questions they are frequently being asked about Coronavirus and pets, as well as other essential information.
Updated: 18/03/20 - 10:23am
How to Stay Up to Date About Coronavirus
Where can I find the most up to date information about coronavirus?
• Seek up to date information from leading public health authorities, such as the World Health Organization, the Australian Government Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Another potential information source is a regularly updated blog hosted by the University of Guelph (Canada) Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses - Worms and Germs Blog. Its key contributor is Dr Scott Weese who is a leading expert on Veterinary Infectious diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions About Coronavirus and Pets
Reports from Hong Kong February 28, 2020 indicate the pet dog of a person infected with human COVID-19 tested “weak positive” to COVID-19.
It is reported the dog does not have any relevant clinical signs. A further test March 2, 2020 showed another weak positive making it very likely the dog was actually infected with COVID-19 through human to animal transmission. Quarantine will be enforced until the dog's tests return negative.
Update: While this instance has been recorded in Hong Kong, the World Health Organisation have advised that there is no evidence that a dog or cat can transmit COVID-19. Furthermore, they have stated that COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs, or speaks and have advised frequent hand washing is the best way to protect yourself from the virus.
Are cats and dogs at risk of contracting the 2019 novel coronavirus?
• According to the World Health Organization, there is currently no evidence companion animals or pets, such as cats and dogs, can spread the virus that causes COVID-19.
• Further, there is no evidence cats or dogs can be a source of COVID-19 infection to people.
What can I do to keep my pets safe from COVID-19?
• Keep pets away from people infected with COVID-19.
• Confine pets of infected people to limit spread, as it’s not yet known whether pets may be nonclinical carriers of disease.
• Follow good hygiene practices at all times, especially hand washing before and after interacting with pets.
Should we be testing pets for human COVID-19?
• At this time, testing pets for COVID-19 is unwarranted, as there is no indication that apparently healthy and unexposed pets should be tested for the human COVID-19 virus.
• We are currently awaiting the results of the Hong Kong investigation for evidence that pets can be actively infected with human COVID-19 to better understand the risk of the virus to our dogs and cats, and to us from our pets.
• According to the World Health Organization, people who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others including children, spouses and even pets to ensure they do not inadvertently transfer infection.
How should we handle our pets to ensure they do not become carriers of the virus?
• Walk on a leash when outdoors.
• Avoid contact with persons known or suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19. If you are infected or have been exposed, include your pet(s) among those you do not have contact with, and wash hands before and after handling your pet(s).
• Routinely clean and disinfect animal contact surfaces (e.g. cages, feeding areas) and immediately after contact with high-risk species.
What if my dog or cat is showing signs of flu-like illness?
• If your pet shows signs of coughing, sneezing, lethargy or otherwise, call your veterinarian at the first sign of illness and keep them indoors to prevent further spread.
• Signs of illness in dogs and cats can be associated with various common viral and bacterial infections (e.g. kennel cough and canine flu) that are not transmissible to people.
Are exotic pets, such as ferrets and rats, safe from the disease?
• The practice of selling/consuming wildlife that may carry the virus has been implicated as the source of the current global coronavirus outbreak.
• If you have recently acquired an exotic pet, it should be handled hygienically as indicated above, quarantined away from other pets, and your veterinarian should be consulted.
Should we get rid of our pets to be sure they will not transfer the virus to our family?
• No. There is currently no evidence that household pets like dogs and cats are involved in transmitting coronaviruses to humans.
• Pet ownership can have health, emotional and social benefits, so practicing responsible pet ownership and hygienic practices is recommended to keep families and pets together and free from disease.
What is known about other coronaviruses in cats and dogs?
• Feline infectious peritonitis is associated with a viral infection from feline coronavirus. There are many different strains of feline coronavirus, which differ in their ability to cause disease. It is now recognised that feline enteric coronavirus strains can mutate to the more harmful type of virus and cause FIP disease.
• Canine enteric coronavirus is a highly infectious intestinal infection in dogs, especially puppies. Coronavirus is usually short-lived, but may cause considerable abdominal discomfort for a few days in infected dogs.
What is the treatment for coronavirus in pets?
• There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses in dogs or cats, as mild clinical signs are unlikely to require therapy.
• Supportive care, including replacement of lost fluids, nutritional support, and anti-nausea medication, may be used for more severe cases.
• Rarely, hospitalisation is necessary. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and, therefore, will not help treat coronavirus infections.
Can manufactured pet food carry COVID-19?
• It is highly unlikely that dry or canned pet foods are viral vectors.
Information collated from: