The big question that we are being asked as veterinarians is, “Can I get coronavirus from my pet?” So far the answer is “No.” There have not been any proven cases that the virus can spread from cats and dogs to humans. There have been a few cases, however, where it is likely that pets have become infected with coronavirus from contact with their humans.
On April 22, the USDA and CDC reported that two cats in New York state, from different homes, tested positive for Covid-19. Both cats exhibited mild upper respiratory signs and were tested by veterinarians. One cat owner was confirmed positive for the virus. The other cat owner did not test positive but this was an outdoor cat who may have had contact with an infected person in the neighborhood.
There were a few reports of dogs outside the U.S. that have tested slightly positive in February and March. The agricultural authorities concluded that in these cases the dogs contracted the disease from humans and that the pets were not contagious.
Four tigers and three lions began showing signs of respiratory disease at the Bronx zoo in March. Testing confirmed that they all were positive for Covid-19. These cats recovered from their illnesses without significant signs of the disease. The veterinarians at the zoo concluded that these animals were exposed to a keeper who tested positive but was not showing symptoms.
For now, it appears that it is more likely that we are passing the novel coronavirus to our pets. But until we know more, the CDC recommends the following:
Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
Walk dogs on a leash maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
Avoid dog parks.
If you test positive for Covid-19 or are showing signs of the disease, restrict contact with your pets or other animals. Have another member of your family care for your pets and avoid close contact if possible. If you must care for your pets, wear a mask or cloth covering your nose and mouth and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.