Can You Spread COVID-19 To Dogs & Cats?


COVID-19 continues to spread across the world. It seems there is frightening news each day about new variants and people dying from this deadly virus. And taken all together, this nonstop news can be very confusing for the average pet owner.

If you own a dog or cat, you’re probably asking yourself: Can your pet get COVID-19? Can you get COVID-19 from your pet? And what should you do if you, your animals, or all of you get infected?

To help answer these questions, we put together this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to discover the answers you’ve been looking for!

Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?

Let’s start with the question on every pet lovers’ mind. Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?

The short answer is “yes.” Recent studies suggest that pet owners who contract COVID-19 often spread it to their pets, especially if they share a bed with their cats.

In a Netherlands study of pet owners who had COVID-19, researchers found that six of 154 cats (3.9%) and seven of 156 dogs (4.5%) tested positive for coronavirus, while 31 cats (20.1%) and 23 dogs (14.7%) had coronavirus antibodies, indicating they had already had the disease.

If you contract COVID-19, it’s important to isolate yourself from your pet in order not to spread it to them. Have someone else take care of your pet and do not let your pet share your bed while you are contagious. If you have no one else in your household who can take care of your pet, wear a mask while you care for them and wash your hands before and after handling their food and supplies.

Pets can get COVID-19 from other animals as well, not just humans. So, while the pandemic is ongoing, it’s important to keep your pet socially distant from other animals outside your household.

Make sure to monitor your pet for symptoms of COVID-19, although some pets with coronavirus may experience mild or no symptoms.

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Symptoms of an infected pet

How will you know if your pet has COVID-19? According to the CDC, these are the pet symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy (unusual laziness or sluggishness)
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Taken on their own, these could all be symptoms of something else. But if your dog or cat has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and presents symptoms (especially multiple symptoms), you should treat this very seriously.

How to take care of an infected pet

Let’s say that you suspect your pet has COVID-19. How are you supposed to take care of them while they are sick?

First of all, it’s important to isolate an infected animal the same way that you would isolate an infected human. If possible, make sure anyone who helps take care of the sick animal has been vaccinated against COVID-19, and those who are at high risk of infection should avoid the animal completely during this time.

If you are taking care of the pet, try to wear a mask and gloves while doing so. Keep the gloves on when dealing with things like their toys, bed, and blankets. Try to disinfect things like food bowls, water bowls, and toys, but make sure not to put any topical disinfectant on your pet, as this could hurt or kill them.

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Can pets spread COVID-19 to people?

Now you know that humans can spread COVID-19 to dogs and cats. But can dogs or cats spread the virus to human beings?

Once again, the answer is “yes.” Relatively speaking, the chances of an animal spreading the virus to a human is low, but it is entirely possible. And the risks are worse for pet owners who are unvaccinated and/or immunocompromised in any way.

This is why the guidelines above focused on you masking up, wearing gloves, and avoiding the animal as much as possible. By taking these simple safety measures, you can seriously reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 from your pet.

When to call the vet

There is much you can do to take care of an infected dog or cat on your own. But when your pet is infected with a potentially deadly virus, you will likely want to call your veterinarian.

While it’s good to contact your vet as soon as you suspect an infection, the one thing you need to avoid is bringing a potentially infected animal directly to the vet. Instead, contact your vet by phone to discover what their COVID safety procedures are.

For example, your vet may want to diagnose the animal via a telemedicine appointment. Alternatively, they may have special safety measures at their office they will need to prepare before you can bring your animal in. No matter the procedure, though, your vet represents the best chance to verify whether your dog or cat actually has COVID-19 and can offer recommendations about whether the animal should stay in the pet hospital or simply be isolated at your home.

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Do I need to put a mask on an infected dog or cat?

One of the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection is to wear a mask. But if you have a dog or cat with the virus (or you at least suspect them of having the virus), you may be asking yourself: “does my pet need a mask?”

The answer to this question is a very emphatic “no.” Your dog or cat isn’t going to keep the mask on any better than a confused toddler. And in some cases, trying to put a mask on your animal could result in the animal getting injured.

When is it safe to cuddle my pet?

For pet lovers, the hardest part of their pet getting COVID-19 is the isolation part. After all, you are watching your animal going through pain, and you probably just want to reach out and give them a hug. So that brings us to the last question: when is it safe to go back to cuddling your infected pet?

If the dog or cat has been officially diagnosed with COVID-19 from your vet, you’ll need to wait 14 days or wait for the vet to complete tests to verify the virus has passed. And you’ll need to make sure the animal has shown no symptoms for at least 72 hours.

If all of these conditions are met, feel free to reach out and give your pet the cuddles they have been missing!

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