COVID-19.  Novel 2019 Coronavirus.  

In December 2019 the world learned of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 and since then it has spread across the globe.  Although, at this time we are at a very minimal risk here in Canada, experts do think that it is only a matter of time before it becomes endemic here as well.  People are starting to take precautions and planning for illness and quarantines.  As a matter of fact it is impossible to find any hand sanitizer for sale in my small town as people stock up in the hopes of preventing infection.  

But what about our pets?  Can they contract this COVID-19?  Can they spread it?  Although this specific coronavirus is a new mutation, coronaviruses themselves have been around for quite some time.  As a veterinarian I am concerned about different coronaviruses in different species but the fact is that each of these viruses is species specific.   For example the feline coronavirus that results Feline Infectious Peritonitis is only found in cats and the canine coronavirus which results in diarrhea in dogs is only found in dogs.  These viruses do not cause disease in any other species, unless the virus mutates.   This is most likely the case with COVID-19 as well so it is unlikely to infect our pets.  

What about the dog that tested positive in Hong Kong on February 27, 2020?  To be fair, we don’t know what the true meaning of the test is at this point as investigations are ongoing, but at this point the dog in question has not shown any clinical symptoms of illness.  It is being cared for under quarantine and is continuing to be monitored and tested.  There is no evidence that pets can spread the COVID-19 virus, however it is always best to take precautionary measures during any illness.

Many of the precautions that we recommend include general precautions that should always be taken when handling pets and other animals. 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling animals
  • Wash pet bedding regularly
  • Bathe your pet if he/she has been around sick people or animals
  • If possible, it is recommended that an alternative healthy person care for a pet if the primary caregiver is ill. 
  • If someone in your home is ill it may be a good idea to bathe your pet more frequently.  
  • Don’t forget to include your pets in your emergency planning.  We recommend that you keep a two weeks supply of food, medicine, kitty litter and other supplies on hand in the event that you become sick and can not get out to get these supplies for your pet.  

If you have specific concerns about your pet and COVID-19 contact your veterinarian for the most current advice specific to your location.  

Authror: Dr. Janet Henderson, veterinarian