Can dogs, cats and other pets contract COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s possible for animals to get COVID from people, but there’s a low chance of animals spreading the virus to humans.
Most animals infected with the coronavirus had close contact with people who had COVID, such as pet owners and caretakers, the CDC said online.
Reports of animals infected with COVID have been documented worldwide, specifically in companion animals, zoo animals, mink on mink farms and wild white-tailed deer in the U.S.
Although animals are able to contract and spread COVID, health officials said more studies are needed to know if and how different animals are impacted.
Based on current research, the CDC said there’s no evidence that animals play a “significant role” in spreading SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, to animals.
“Some coronaviruses that infect animals can be spread to people and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with SARS-CoV-2, which likely originated in bats,” the CDC’s website said.
Similar to humans, some animals with COVID are asymptomatic, though others could show signs of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, health officials noted. Here are possible symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Nasal discharge
- Ocular discharge
The CDC advised people with COVID to quarantine away from animals while infected with the virus.
However, because the risk for pets spreading the virus to humans is low, health officials said necessary veterinary care for COVID-positive animals should not be withheld.
Additionally, service animals must be allowed to remain with their handlers despite a positive COVID test, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Yeah, there could be,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook live event earlier this year.
Arwady explained, though, that health officials would want to see that COVID infections were “serious” in animals or that pets were playing a large role in making humans seriously ill.
“One of the reasons we have rabies vaccines is that rabies is a really deadly human disease and can be a problem there,” Arwady said.
Some animals have already been vaccinated against COVID, Arwady noted, although most of those cases were in zoo settings.
For dogs and cats, Arwady said there is no routine coronavirus vaccination recommended at this time, and she doesn’t expect there to be one. But dogs and cats contracting the virus causes concern for another reason.
“For me, the concern about seeing COVID not just in dogs and cats but in animals in general, it tells us that there’s what we call an ‘animal reservoir for COVID-19’ and that means that it’s one of the most important things that makes it very unlikely that we would ever eradicate completely — get rid of COVID. Because as long as there are animals that are able to have it, there are, you know, that remains a risk,” Arwady said.
In February, a dog from Chicago became the first in Illinois to test positive for COVID-19, according to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine.
The animal had been experiencing respiratory symptoms since early January and subsequently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, according to a news release from the college.
The dog developed signs of respiratory illness approximately one week after exposure, according to the veterinarian.