On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Pet owners are understandably concerned. The American Veterinary Medicine Association has recently addressed these concerns by publishing their answers to some common questions.
Here’s a brief summary:
Did a Dog Test Positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong?
Not exactly. In late February, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) detected low levels of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — in a pet dog. They repeated the test last week and found “weak positive” results for the virus. Hong Kong authorities responded with warnings that residents should not kiss their pets. The infected dog was placed in quarantine, but showed no signs of COVID-19 infection. It tested negative on March 12th.
Can COVID-19 Infect Pets?
While no one is certain, it seems very unlikely. AVMA writes, “Infectious disease experts, as well as the CDC, OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people.” They acknowledge, however, that additional tests and investigations are ongoing.
What Precautions Should Pet Owners Take?
The AVMA, WHO, and other health organizations recommend pet owners take a number of precautions to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. These common-sense measures include regular hand washing, social distancing, and proper respiratory hygiene. Pet owners should take particular care to wash their hands after handling their pets, feeding their pets, and handling pet waste.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” the AVMA suggests that anyone who is ill with COVID-19 (or expects they might be) should limit their contact with animals “until more information is known about the virus.” While facemasks are not advised for most individuals, anyone who is symptomatic should wear them around their pets and other people.
Ill pet owners should designate friends or family members as handlers of their pet’s care. AVMA recommends putting together “emergency kits” with several weeks’ worth of pet food and other necessary supplies.
Is Testing Available for Pets in the United States?
Not as of March 12th, but tests and updates to testing capacity are in the works. AVMA expects that more information on availability and submission requirements will become available shortly.
Stay Safe and Calm
The AVMA concludes their FAQ sheet with yet another reminder that pet owners should remain calm. “There is no evidence,” they write, “to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to other people or other pets.” Be sure to identify credible news sources and check in regularly as this situation continues to develop.