1. Can the Coronavirus/COVID-19 virus infect dogs and cats?
Recently in Hong Kong there were proactive and precautionary measures to quarantine the pets of people who were diagnosed with COVID-19. In February one of these pets, a healthy dog, had a small amount of viral genetic material that was detected in the dog’s mouth and nose. The dog did not get sick and did not have COVID-19 illness or sickness, but this single case sparked discussion across the globe. There have been no further cases reported via the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) to date.
The good news is that this dog is not contagious to people or to pets and there is no evidence that pets are involved in the spread of COVID-19.
2. Can pets spread the disease? I.e. If a pet has been in contact with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19, can the pet spread the disease to other people or pets?’
No, there is no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or to humans. This epidemic is being spread from humans to humans and there is no evidence that pets are involved.
3. There is a lot of information online about dogs, cats and coronavirus. Why is this?
The term ‘coronavirus’ defines a broad family (type) of viruses which have been around for a long time, some of which only affect dogs and cats. Dog and cat coronaviruses are different to COVID-19 and cannot infect people. Unfortunately, due to the similar name, these terms may appear in historical articles or online forums and this can cause unnecessary confusion, panic or concern.
There are vaccinations available to protect dogs and cats from infectious diseases including the specific canine coronavirus (there is no equivalent vaccine for cats). It’s important to vaccinate our pet dogs and cats to keep them safe and healthy. Please talk with your vet for a tailored vaccine program to suit your pet. Remember, pets are not involved in the spread of COVID-19, you do not need to be alarmed.
4. How can pet parents protect themselves and their pets?
Remember, the way you can catch COVID-19 is from exposure to an infected person. Therefore, practice standard precautionary hygiene measures as recommended by the relevant Health Departments in your state or territory. This includes thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water (or alcohol gels), distancing yourself from people who are unwell, in some cases wearing face masks and avoid touching your face.
We recommend following good hygiene whenever interacting with your pets, this advice has not changed. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching any animal. Avoid sharing food with your pets or letting your pets kiss or lick your face or mouth. Keep your pet’s vaccinations and parasite treatments (including worming) up to date and maintain regular veterinary health checks. If you suspect your pet is unwell or you have any concerns about your pet’s health, give us a call.
If you are required to self-isolate for 14 days, this may impact your pet’s daily routine and you may need to keep them at home with you. You can plan-ahead by ensuring that you have two weeks of pet food and medication on hand.
5. Should pet parents avoid contact with pets or other animals if they’re sick with COVID-19?
If you have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 then you may wish to take extra precautions to keep your pets safe.
The Centre of Disease Control in the USA recommends the following: “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.
This information is referenced by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It must be emphasised that the situation is rapidly evolving, and we encourage you to monitor the websites of the associations listed above to stay up to date with the latest information