You have probably seen and heard a lot about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how to keep you and your family safe. But what about the other, furrier members of the family—your pets? Below, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers some questions and answers to help keep you, your family, and your pets safe during the pandemic.
Q. Can I get COVID-19 from my pet or other animals?
A. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of pets spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 in people is considered to be low. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in several countries, including the United States. Most of these pets became sick after having close contact with a person with COVID-19.
Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would human family members to protect them from a possible infection. This means:
- Don’t let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If your pet gets sick or you have any concerns about your pet’s health, talk to your veterinarian.
Q. If I get sick with COVID-19, could I infect my animal with the virus?
A. We are still learning about this virus, but it appears it can spread from people to animals in some situations. If you are sick or think you are sick with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you limit contact with animals until more information is known about the new coronavirus.
This means you should avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding. If possible, have another family member care for your pet while you’re sick. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with your pets, and wear a cloth covering on your face.
Q. Should I get my pet tested for COVID-19?
A. No. Routine testing of pets for COVID-19 is NOT recommended at this time. We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of pets spreading the virus is considered to be low. If your pet is sick, consult your veterinarian.
Q. Can animals carry the virus that causes COVID-19 on their skin or fur?
A. Although we know certain bacteria and fungi can be carried on fur and hair, there is no evidence that viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin, fur or hair of pets.
However, because animals can sometimes carry other germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, including washing your hands before and after interacting with them.
There are no products that are FDA-approved to disinfect the hair or coats of pets, but if you do decide to bathe or wipe off your pet, first talk to your veterinarian about suitable products. Never use hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes or other industrial or surface cleaners, as these can penetrate the skin or be licked off and ingested by your pet. If you have recently used any of these products on your pet, or your pet is showing signs of illness after use, contact your veterinarian and rinse or wipe down your pet with water.
Q. Are pets from a shelter safe to adopt?
A. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. There is no reason to think that any animals, including shelter pets, play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
Q. What animal species can get COVID-19?
A. We currently do not fully understand how COVID-19 affects different animal species. We are aware of a small number of pets, including dogs, cats, and a ferret reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after having had close contact with a person with COVID-19. Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered.
Recent research shows that ferrets, cats, fruit bats and golden Syrian hamsters can be experimentally infected with the virus and can spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings. Mice, pigs, chickens and ducks did not become infected or spread the infection based on results from these studies. Data from one study suggest that dogs are not as likely to become infected with the virus as cats and ferrets. These findings were based upon a small number of animals and do not indicate whether animals can spread infection to people.
Large cats in captivity, including several lions and tigers in a New York zoo, a puma in South Africa, and tigers in a Tennessee zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, as have several gorillas at the San Diego zoo, after showing signs of respiratory illness. It is suspected that these animals became sick after being exposed to zoo employees with COVID-19.
The virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported in minks on farms in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the United States. Once the virus is introduced on a farm, spread can occur between mink as well as from mink to other animals on the farm (dogs, cats). Because some workers on these farms had COVID-19, it is likely that infected farm workers were the initial source of mink infections.
For any animal that tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a private or state laboratory, USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories performs additional testing to confirm the infection and posts the results on this page: Cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Animals in the United States.