As the nation begins to hide away in their homes from the coronavirus pandemic, our anxieties about the coughing colleague in the next cubicle have quickly turned to focus on a whole new potential enemy – our very own pets.
Could our cute and furry companions really be the secret agents of COVID-19, infecting us with every lick of the hand and suspicious sniffle?
It’s an understandable worry for pet owners everywhere, but before you panic and send your delightful doggy to the pound, make sure you’ve clued yourself up on everything we know about the coronavirus and animals so far…
The Important Things To Know
Can My Pet Get Coronavirus?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued information on this subject as recently as Friday 13th March, stating that “there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.”
Thankfully, this means there is no real need to panic about your pet contracting COVID-19 for the moment.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking basic precautions such as washing your hands before and after handling your animal.
Simple acts of hygiene are critical at this time to prevent the spread of infection, and so it’s the easiest way to keep you and your pet safe until more is known.
Can I Catch Coronavirus From My Pet?
The OIE World Organisation For Animal Health describes COVID-19 as being as “a result of human to human transmission”, meaning it’s unlikely your pet could pass it on to you.
Currently, there is no evidence that pets can even carry the virus and so the advice from OIE is not to take any measures against “companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”
What Precautions Should Pet Owners Take In Response To COVID-19?
Despite evidence suggesting pets will be unaffected by the virus, health organisations are still encouraging everyone to maintain good hygiene practices around animals until they fully understand the virus.
OIE reiterates that “there have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease.”
However, animals and humans sharing diseases is not a totally rare concept, and so as a precaution, those who think they have or have been confirmed to have the virus should limit contact with their pet until more is known.
When handling and caring for animals you should always wash your hands before and after contacting them and avoid sharing food, kissing and being licked by a pet.
If self-quarantining, perhaps have another person take care of your pet while you recover or wear a mask when interacting with them.
Coronavirus And Your Pet General Q&A
Can My Pet Stay With Me In Self-Quarantine?
Given that animals can’t carry the virus for the time being, it should be absolutely fine to keep them in your company during self-isolation, but the general advice is to limit your contact with them until more is known.
Does My Pet Need To Wear A Mask?
No! A mask isn’t going to be particularly pleasant for your pet, and might even affect their breathing. It’s definitely not a necessary precaution to take.
Can My Pet Go Outside?
Try not to let the outbreak of COVID-19 disrupt your pet’s daily lifestyle, they should be perfectly safe outside and aren’t at risk of contracting the disease there.
Coronavirus and Dogs FAQ
Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
While there’s still no evidence pets can carry or contract the virus, worries around this issue likely arose due to the strange case of a canine who tested ‘weakly positive’ for coronavirus a few weeks ago.
The dog tested positive in Hong Kong and had been taken in for evaluation by the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on February 26th, shortly after it’s owner was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Currently, this is the only known case of an animal displaying any signs of the virus in their system, and the dog is still being quarantined in Hong Kong as it awaits further testing.
Naturally, this news has led dog owners everywhere to panic that their own pup will be susceptible to the outbreak, but experts believe this is probably not going to be the case.
Prof Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham told the BBC that it is important to “differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of the virus”.
This is because the dog in question had such low levels of the coronavirus in its system that it’s believed tests may have simply been displaying signs of having been in contact with it’s suffering owner, rather than being actively infected and contagious.
Speaking about the level of infection in the dog, Ball added: “We need to find out more, but we don’t need to panic – I doubt it could spread to another dog or a human because of the low levels.”
Scientists also believe the likelihood of the virus developing enough to make the jump from sickening humans to dogs in such a short space of time would be incredibly unlikely.
The most important thing to remember if you’re worried is that this dog showed no symptoms of the disease, and although testing is still being done, it’s unlikely it is actually infected.
How Can I Protect My Dog From Coronavirus?
If you have COVID-19, the smartest thing to do is to restrict your personal contact with your dog.
Despite current evidence suggesting they can’t spread or become sick from coronavirus, the situation is still evolving and so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s particularly important to at least avoid things like kissing your animal, and if you’re the sole owner of your dog, ensuring you always wash your hands before handling them and have your mouth covered when interacting with them. Otherwise, try and limit your time spent with them, and have another member of your family care for them while you recover.
How Do I Take My Dog For Walks If I Have Coronavirus?
If you are a dog’s sole caregiver, it will admittedly be tricky to take them for walks when suffering from the virus.
Unfortunately, the recommended advice would be to have a friend or dog walker do it for you, as you need to self-isolate to prevent the spread of infection if ill.
Coronavirus and Cats FAQ
Can Cats Get Coronavirus?
Despite there being only one known case of the disease in a dog, there has been no evidence so far to suggest a cat has ever been infected with or carried COVID-19.
However, advice remains the same as regards to hygiene and handwashing, with also emphasis placed on keeping cat’s food and litter trays clean and free from bacteria.
How Can I Protect My Cat From Coronavirus?
If you have COVID-19, limiting the amount of contact you have with your cat is the best course of action.
Although purely a precautionary measure while scientists work to understand the virus more, it is the best way to ensure your animal is not at risk.
Much like with dogs, it’s mostly advised to avoid activities such as kissing and cuddling with your animal, and if you’re the sole owner of your cat, ensuring you always wash your hands before handling them and have your mouth covered.
Again it’s safest to let a friend or another family member take over your care activities while you self-isolate.
Can My Cat Go Outside?
The great thing about cats is that they don’t need to be taken for walks.
This means you can self-isolate without having to worry about hiring a cat-walker, and your moggy can explore the neighbourhood as usual.
Best of all, they will be able to enjoy the outdoors without being at risk of infection!