We know that caring for your family is your number one priority—and, of course, that extends to your pets. As more states and communities begin to ease shelter-in-place restrictions, we thought it would be useful to compile some of the most frequently asked questions about how COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, might impact your pets.
We asked Dr. Katy Nelson, Chewy’s resident veterinarian, to provide answers that you can use now and in the weeks ahead. As this situation develops, we will keep you updated with the most current information.
Can I catch the COVID-19 virus from my pet?
A: Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have advised that there is no evidence at this time that pets can spread the virus. Two American cats and one American dog have tested positive for COVID-19 after being directly exposed to people in the house who were COVID positive. Both cats and the dog had mild symptoms and recovered quickly. Other pets living in the household with the dog (another dog and a cat) did not test positive, suggesting an inefficient transmission of the virus to pets.
Can my pet carry the COVID-19 virus on their hair?
A: While certain bacteria and fungi are known to be present on the skin and hair of animals, there is no evidence that viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, can be spread via contact with hair or fur. However, since animals can carry other germs that can sicken people, it’s still best practice to wash hands after petting, snuggling or playing with your pet.
What do I do if my pet gets ill?
A: If your pet shows signs of illness, and they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, see your veterinarian immediately for a full workup. Tell your veterinarian that your pet has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 so they can prepare accordingly. Idexx Laboratories has developed testing for pets, but requires authorization from a public health official to run. Routine testing is not being recommended at this time, but pets who have been exposed to COVID-19 positive patients, are showing signs of illness, and have been worked up for other more common respiratory diseases may qualify for testing.
Should I keep my dog away from other people and/or dogs on our walks?
A: It is recommended that people avoid places where large numbers of dogs and people gather, like dog parks, at this time. Walking your pets is still recommended and is important for your pets’ health. Walk on a leash no longer than 6 feet to engage in social distancing, and avoid contact between other dogs and people along the way. Do not pet other people’s dogs, and avoid having them touch your pets.
Is it safe to adopt shelter pets now?
A: There is no evidence at this time that pets can transmit COVID-19, and that goes for shelter pets, as well. It is actually a wonderful time to adopt or foster a pet! Many shelters have reduced hours and reduced staff, so they’re desperately seeking fosters and adopters to move the pets out of the shelters. Plus, you have the added bonus of being home much more than you usually are, so take the time to let your new pet decompress, assimilate into the household, and to do some extra training! There’s no time like the present.
The bottom line is, be prepared and remember that there is no reason whatsoever to take measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare or erode the bond you have with your four-legged loved ones.