Can pets catch or spread new coronavirus? - Dr. Marty Becker


Can pets catch or spread new coronavirus?

Monday, Mar 2nd, 2020 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Woman wearing respiratory mask while looking at her dog

Are we likely to transmit the new coronavirus to our pets? Can they transmit it to us? While virus has been found in the nose of a dog owned by a person with COVID-19, it’s most likely that was just some live or dead virus picked up from his or her owner rather than an actual infection. However, the situation is fluid. I highly recommend you follow the Worms and Germs blog to stay up to date.

For now, this is how I answered a reader:

Q: I’m hearing a lot about how the new coronavirus may have “jumped” from bats or other animals to humans. Do I need to be concerned that my pets could catch it from other animals or that it could be passed between humans and pets? How can I safeguard my pets and myself?

A: Great questions! There are many different types of coronaviruses, some of which affect humans, and others that circulate among animals. The COVID-19 virus, as this particular one is known, is thought to have originated in bats, but so far it’s not clear whether there was an intermediary animal host.

Coronavirus infections can occur in cats and dogs, causing such illnesses as canine cough, sometimes called kennel cough. (It is more formally known as infectious tracheobronchitis complex, or ITB.) Other types of coronavirus can be serious or life-threatening to pets, but they are species-specific. In other words, they can be passed from cat to cat or dog to dog, but not, for instance, from dogs to cats or cats to humans.

In an article from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, associate professor Kate Creevy, DVM, says, “At this time, we do not believe humans can catch (any form of) coronavirus from their pet.”

Even though the COVID-19 virus originated from an animal, it spreads person-to-person. There’s no evidence that pets or other animals in the United States could be a source of infection, or that they could become infected through contact with a human who has the virus.

It’s always a good idea to avoid handling pets or other animals if you are sick, and to avoid petting or otherwise coming in contact with unknown or stray animals if you are traveling to another country.

There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.