Pets and COVID-19: What you need to know to keep your furry family members safe.

Cancer

My dogs, Maggie, Linus, and Huckleberry, have been ENORMOUS supports for me during quarantine. Not only do they provide me with companionship and unconditional love, but they also soothe and comfort me in those moments I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about our current state of affairs AND they get me outside and moving on our regular walks.

But, given all of that close proximity, one has to wonder, are pets playing a role in the spread of coronavirus? And even worse, do I need to socially distance myself from my #quarantinepartners?

Like humans, animals are susceptible to coronaviruses. There are coronaviruses that effect animals and not humans and there are some that effect humans and not animals. We have seen some very RARE occurrences of this current coronavirus being spread from humans to animals but there is no evidence of it being spread by animals to humans.

Some Quick Facts

  • There is no evidence that animals play a role in spreading COVID-19.
  • This is no evidence that viruses, including this strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be spread to people from our pets’ skin, fur, or hair.
  • There is always the possibility of animals spreading the disease to humans. This is called zoonosis. It is always a good idea to practice healthy habits when caring for your animals. This includes frequent hand washing and maintaining your pet’s health and well-being through regular veterinary care, vaccinations, grooming, a healthy diet, and exercise.
  • There is SO MUCH we do not know about this virus. Research is also being done with animals to learn more about this coronavirus and how it impacts humans and animals. Yes, there have been reports of a few dogs and cats testing positive for COVID-19. But, put that into perspective. There are millions of pet dogs and cats throughout the world. We have seen no evidence of a mirrored pandemic in family pets.

What if I, or someone else in my house, gets sick or tests positive for COVID-19?

  • It is important to protect your pets and other folks in your house if you or someone else gets sick.
  • If possible, have someone else take care of the animals while you are sick.
  • As hard as it is, you need to also social distance yourself from your animals. Avoid physical contact with your pets if you are sick. This includes petting, snuggles, sleeping in bed with your pets, sharing food and getting kisses.
  • If you are on your own with no one else to care for you pets and you are sick, wear a facemask around them and wash your hands before/after interacting with them. 
  • If you are sick, DO NOT take your pet to veterinary appointments. Call ahead and let them know you have been sick.

Can I still take my dog for walks?

  • YES! You will both really benefit from the time and exercise outside together.
  • Minimize interactions between people and pets from outside your own home.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and practice safe distancing from other folks out walking.  
  • Discourage interaction between dogs while out on your walk. Wave, say hi and keep moving.

What about letting my cat outside?

  • CDC recommends that you keep your cat indoors at this time. This is to prevent unnecessary contact with unknown humans and animals.

What about the dog park?

  • The CDC is currently recommending skipping the dog park. Lots of people and lots of dogs in one space is a recipe for social distancing problems. 

My pet is due for routine veterinary care—what do I need to know?

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is working closely with veterinary practices across the country in developing recommendations for continuing to provide veterinary care during the pandemic. 
  • Most vets are not permitting owners into the practice with their animals. I took one of my dogs in recently. We parked in a numbered spot in the lot, a tech came out and got Linus from the car, and the vet communicated with me via phone about what was happening. This is to protect the veterinary staff as much as us. Just be prepared that what you are used to when you go to the vet is not really happening right now.
  • Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is currently NOT recommended; if an animal is symptomatic AND had potential exposure to a human with confirmed COVID-19, testing may be considered.
  • Many veterinarians are also providing telemedicine visits. Ask your vet practice about what options they have.
  • Emergency veterinary care is also still available, but again, with limited in-person contact.

What about adopting or fostering an animal during quarantine—is it safe?

  • Shelters and animal rescue groups are always in need of good homes for their animals—either short term through foster care or through adoption. 
  • There is no evidence that adopting an animal at this time has an increased risk.
  • Contact the rescue group/shelter directly about their rules for meet and greets and adoption during quarantine.
  • Remember, quarantine is temporary. Pet ownership is not. This is a years-long commitment. You will go back to work and pre-COVID activities. If you cannot commit to providing your new furry family member with care after quarantine, now is not the time to adopt just because you are home and bored.

I know my pets have been the most amazing partners in quarantine. I’m grateful for their presence. I’m also dedicated to keeping them safe. 

How have your pets been part of your quarantine routine?


Christina is a clinical oncology social worker who joined the OncoLink team in 2014. Christina blogs about resources available to the cancer community, as well as general information about coping with cancer practically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christina is also an instructor at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice. In her spare time, she loves to knit and volunteer with her therapy dogs, Linus and Huckleberry. She also loves to travel, cook and is an avid Philly sports fan.

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