Can my pet get the virus that causes COVID-19?
Answer From Daniel C. DeSimone, M.D.
The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mostly spreads from person to person. But it can spread from people to animals.
COVID-19 is caused by a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause illness in people. Others cause illness in animals, such as bats. In addition, some coronaviruses infect only animals. The specific source of origin of the virus that causes COVID-19 isn't known. But the virus is believed to have started in an animal, spread to humans and then spread between people.
Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets — including cats and dogs — have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This happened mostly after the animals were in close contact with people infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Can dogs and cats spread the virus that causes COVID-19?
The risk of animals spreading the COVID-19 virus to people is considered low. Animals don't appear to play a major role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. There is no evidence that viruses can spread to people or other animals from a pet's skin, fur or hair.
However, 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 risk. They should be cautious and wash their 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:
- Isolate yourself from everyone else, including your pet, except to provide basic care. If possible, have another person in your household care for your pet.
- Avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding with your pet.
- 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, make sure you 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. He or she might offer advice through a virtual visit or make another plan for treating your pet. Testing is recommended only for pets that have symptoms and have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
What do I do if my pet has COVID-19?
If your pet tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the same precautions you would if a family member became infected. Aim to isolate your pet in a separate room away from the rest of your family and have your pet stay at home. Also, follow these tips:
- Wear gloves when you interact with your pet or its food, dishes, waste or bedding.
- Wash your hands after touching any of your pet's items.
Don't put a face mask on your pet. Don't wipe your pet with disinfectants. If your pet develops new symptoms or seems to be getting worse, call the veterinarian.
If your pet becomes ill, there's reason to be hopeful. Of the small number of dogs and cats confirmed to have the virus that causes COVID-19, some didn't show any signs of illness. Most of the pets that did become ill had mild symptoms and could be cared for at home. Pets have very rarely become seriously ill.
If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health and COVID-19, contact your veterinarian.
June 11, 2022
Daniel C. DeSimone, M.D.
See more Expert Answers
- Animals and COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2022.
- What you should know about COVID-19 and pets. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/covid-19/pets.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2022.
- Evaluation for SARS-CoV-2 testing in animals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/animals/animal-testing.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2022.
- Helpful questions and answers about coronavirus (COVID-19) and your pets. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/helpful-questions-and-answers-about-coronavirus-covid-19-and-your-pets. Accessed Jan. 25, 2022.
- Holmes EC, et al. The origins of SARS-CoV-2: A critical review. Cell. 2021; doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.08.017.
- How to stay healthy around pets. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/keeping-pets-and-people-healthy/how.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2022.