Can my pet get the virus that causes COVID-19?

Answer From Daniel C. DeSimone, M.D.

The virus that causes COVID-19, also called coronavirus disease 2019, mostly spreads from person to person. But it can spread between people and animals.

COVID-19 is caused by a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses make people sick. Others make animals, such as bats, sick. Also, some coronaviruses infect only animals.

Can pets such as dogs and cats get COVID-19?

Pets have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, including cats, dogs, hamsters and ferrets. Most of these animals got infected after close contact with people who had the COVID-19 virus.

Can pets spread the virus that causes COVID-19?

The risk of animals spreading the COVID-19 virus to people is thought to be low. There is no proof that viruses can spread to people or other animals from a pet's skin, fur or hair.

But animals can carry other germs that can make people sick. Young children, people with weakened immune systems and people age 65 and older are at higher than typical risk. For these groups it's even more important to wash hands after touching an animal.

What do I do if I have COVID-19 and have a pet?

If you have COVID-19 and have a pet:

  • Until your symptoms are getting better and you don't have a fever, stay away from everyone, including your pet, except to provide basic care. If you can, have someone else care for your pet.
  • Don't pet, snuggle, or share food or your bed with your pet. Don't let your pet kiss or lick you.
  • If you care for your pet or are around animals while you're sick, wear a face mask. Wash your hands before and after handling animals and their food, waste and supplies. Also, be sure to clean up after your pet.

If you have COVID-19 and your pet becomes sick, don't take your pet to the veterinarian yourself. Instead, contact the veterinarian. You might be able to have a virtual visit or make another plan for treating your pet. Only pets that have symptoms after being around someone with COVID-19 need to be tested.

What do I do if my pet has COVID-19?

If your pet tests positive for infection with the COVID-19 virus, follow the same plan you would if a family member became infected. Keep your pet at home. Also, follow these tips:

  • Wear gloves when you touch your pet or its food, dishes, waste or bedding.
  • Wash your hands after touching anything your pet touches.

Don't put a face mask on your pet. Don't wipe your pet with disinfectants or other chemicals. If your pet gets new symptoms or seems to be getting worse, call a veterinarian.

If your pet gets sick, try not to worry. Of the small number of dogs and cats that have been infected by the COVID-19 virus, some had no symptoms. Most of the pets that got ill had mild symptoms. They could be cared for at home. Pets have rarely become seriously ill with COVID-19.

If you have questions or worries about your pet's health and COVID-19, contact your veterinarian.


Daniel C. DeSimone, M.D.

May 14, 2024 See more Expert Answers

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