Pets and COVID-19 Transmission


In December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, was discovered and within a couple of months have been declared a pandemic, leaving people concerned about their own health and their pets’ as well.

Some animals were the main source of coronavirus transmission in the past decades. In 2002, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was transmitted from civet cats—wild cats found in the tropical forests of Asia and Africa—to humans in China. In 2012, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome–Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was also transmitted to humans from contact with infected dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia.

Nowadays, People are worried about their pets’ health and are afraid they might transmit COVID-19. In fact, pets can be infected by coronavirus, but only certain strains of it; there is no evidence that dogs and cats can transmit COVID-19 to humans.

Despite being zoonotic, COVID-19 is only transmitted from an infected person to a healthy one; an infected person may transmit the virus to his/her pet, but the pet will not transmit it to another human. It was reported that two dogs were infected in Hong Kong after their owner was confirmed to have COVID-19, but there is not any case of pet to human transmission till now.

However, as coronavirus is transmitted also by touching surfaces contaminated by droplets containing the virus—such as doorknobs and countertops—your pets’ fur can be an issue, if it is somehow contaminated by the virus from the droplets of an infected person, for example. You can pet your animal, touch it, and play with it, but you should wash your hand after dealing with the animal, its food, and toys. You should avoid kissing, licking, and sharing food with your pet, and do not forget to bathe your animal properly to protect it.

Dogs love to be walked daily as a mental and physical exercise; you can walk them, but after checking that the area is safe, avoiding crowded places and busy times of the day. Owners should wash their hands for 20 seconds before and after the walk; try to take a hand sanitizer with you to use it during the walk. Try to protect your animal by washing their legs and cleaning their paws before and after playing with other animals and try not to expose your pets or yourself to an infected person.

If you notice any change in your animal's behavior or any health issue appears on it, do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian; swabs should be taken and examined to make sure the animal is safe. Do not panic when you face a stray dog or any other street animal; practice general hygienic measures and do not let older people deal with them.

Some people have begun to abandon their pets, thinking it is a good way to protect themselves and their families from infection. This attitude is totally wrong and unfair; pet animals are not risky and they do not know how to live on the streets, or how to feed themselves. Follow proper hygienic measures instead and protect your animal; your animal trusts you, so do not fail it.

As a new virus, COVID-19 is still under investigation; the data we have on the virus is still not complete. As scientists study and analyze the virus, more data will be available; just ensure you practice hygiene and avoid crowded areas.

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