By Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM
The National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the USDA announced on April 22, 2020 that two pet cats from different households in the United States were confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection. These are the first pets in the US with positive tests for the virus that causes COVID-19 in people. Subsequently, a family dog from Chapel Hill, North Carolina tested positive. It appears that cats and dogs can become infected, but currently we have no information that suggests the virus can go from pets to people.
If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, tiredness, nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, aches and pains) you should limit contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. When possible, have another family or household member care for the animals while you are sick. If you have a service animal or you must care for pets, wear a face mask or covering; don’t share food, kiss, or hug animals; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, service animal, or other animals. If you are sick, you should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.
Good general safety practice includes not allowing pets to interact with people or other animals outside the household; keeping cats indoors to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people; walking dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals; avoiding public places where large numbers of people and dogs gather.
Keeping pets indoors or under close supervised conditions not only protects them against COVID-19 infection, it prevents them from suffering other harms commonly encountered outside.
Now is a great time to practice teaching your pets skills and tricks with positive reinforcement, and to spend extra time at home grooming your pets. Walking your dog is important for both animal and human health and well-being. Love your animals, keep them close to you (unless you are sick!), away from other people and together all of us, whether we have two legs or four, will get through this together!
For more information about COVID-19 and pets, visit the CDC and the AVMA.
For additional information on resources and COVID-19, visit boston.gov/coronavirus.
Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, Boston Animal Care and Control