Can pets catch Covid-19?

A tiger testing positive for Covid-19 at New York’s Bronx Zoo raises the question, can our cats and dogs catch it, too?

Daily walks around the neighbourhood have never seen so many dogs out and about as their owners take a much-needed stroll around the block or to the local park. 

Thankfully most are on their leads but some are not. I had one run up to me and lick my leg. It was very cute dog and I let out a squeal of delight but at the same time I was thinking, I hope it doesn’t have Covid-19! Am I being paranoid, or is this a real consideration?

According to the New Zealand Veterinary Association there is limited evidence companion animals can be infected with COVID-19 and limited evidence pet dogs or cats present a source of infection to humans or other animals.

NZVA agrees pets are part of the Covid-19 conversation which is why they have information and infographics about this on their website

“One of the key messages we want to get across is read qualified information that is science-based and stay away from Facebook threads,” says Helen Beattie, NZVA chief veterinary officer. 

“A small number of animals have tested positive internationally – a couple of cats, dogs and a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo. There have also been a couple of papers that have shown experimental infection of some species including cats and ferrets. The key message in all of that is there is no evidence that they then pass that disease on. We haven’t seen a cat passing it to another cat or a cat passing it to a human.”

If you are living in a COVID-19 positive household and have a pet there needs to be no high level of alarm around whether your cat is going to pass it onto someone else, says Beattie.

“We recommend taking sensible precautions like you are already doing with family members of the same household. If you are COVID-19 positive you would sleep in a different room, you wouldn’t share the same utensils. We say, do the same thing with your pet. If you are COVID-19 positive, don’t let them sit on your lap or lick your face. It’s best to have someone else in the household look after them if you can.”

Beattie acknowledges this is not always possible if you live on your own with a pet. Don’t stress, as the risk is incredibly low that your pet would get COVID-19.

“You just need to be sensible. Animals can be infected but the key thing is they also need to be looked after. We know and understand how people feel about their animals as part of their family and also being a comfort, particularly at this time of stress, which is really important. The last thing we want is people feeling alienated and fearful their pet might be a risk to them.

“We’ve known about COVID-19 for the past three or four months and there are not massive cases of this being an issue. The bottom line is love your pets and nurture them as you naturally would with a couple of precautions by being sensible.”

If your pet is unwell and you are worried it has COVID-19, please call ahead to your vet first and talk to your vet to see if your pet needs to be seen in person. And if you or someone you are living with has COVID-19, please tell the vet that, too, as they need to take extra precautions.  

And, when you are taking your dog out for a walk around the neighbourhood, keep your dog on a lead. Your dog is part of your bubble and they need to be socially distanced from others.

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