As our knowledge of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and resulting Covid-19 disease evolves, the news and guidelines we must follow are changing as well. The dynamic nature of this situation may be difficult for some, who may find keeping up to date with current best practices and precautions to be a time-consuming endeavor.
Dr. Kate Creevy, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that while several news stories have recently detailed pet cats, dogs, and even zoo tigers testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, pet owners should be assured that these are rare and seem to be one-way occurrences.
“We have no evidence that sick pets can transmit coronavirus to otherwise healthy, uninfected owners,” Creevy said.
Creevy said that most viruses prefer to infect one species above others; under our current understanding, SARS-CoV-2 prefers infecting humans and is less effective at infecting cats or dogs.
“The very most important way this virus spreads is from person to person,” she emphasizes.
Most dogs and cats that have tested positive for the virus in their bodies had known contact with infected humans. For some stray cats that have tested positive, it is not possible to determine what contact they may have had with infected people.
And although these animals tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is not clear whether the virus made them ill.
Given how common cat and dog ownership is and how uncommon detection of SARS-CoV-2 in these animals has been, Creevy says it is highly unlikely that dog or cat transmission of the virus will become a major factor in the pandemic.
Most importantly, Creevy said, “Researchers around the world are paying very close attention to whether or not pets can transmit the virus to humans, and have found no supporting evidence. This is an emerging virus, which means that we don’t yet know everything about it. But we will continue to provide updates to the public any time our understanding changes.”
Pet owners should practice good hygiene around their pets and other humans, maintain social distancing, and avoid exercising their animal in crowded areas or busy dog parks. Keep in mind that pets’ fur, like any other surface, may carry the virus if touched by an infected individual.
Creevy recommends that pet owners follow the following precautions:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after playing with or petting a dog or cat, especially after contact with pet saliva or feces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene, which means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, dry cough, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call your provider in advance so they can be prepared for your arrival. Follow the directions of your physician or local health authority.
- If you are sick, avoid close contact with other members of your household, including your pets. Have another member of the household care for your animals. If you must look after your pet while you are sick, maintain good hygiene practices and cover your face if possible.
The current crisis is stressful for many, but pet owners can mitigate their worries by following the recommended guidelines and practices. As a community, we can beat Covid-19 by staying clean, staying home, and staying well.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.