Can Dogs and Cats Get the New Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

4 min read
By Jennifer Coates    February 05, 2020 at 02:50PM


By Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM


Updated on March 23, 2020 


In this article:


  • There's no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 or become sick from it.
  • “Canine” and “Feline” coronavirus are NOT the same as COVID-19.
  • People cannot catch “canine” and “feline” coronavirus.
  • Monitor trusted news outlets for the latest updates (CDC, World Health Organization). 


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As with any major health crisis, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about dogs and cats and the new coronavirus (officially called SARS-CoV-2; previously called 2019-nCoV).


Can pets get this new coronavirus? If so, can they give it to us? And can they get it from us?


Let’s look at what we know and, just as importantly, what we don’t.


Can Dogs and Cats Get the New Coronavirus?


It is very unlikely that dogs and cats can contract the virus from people or serve as a source of this infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):


There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.


The World Organisation for Animal Health adds the following:


The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.


Have Dogs Tested Positive for the New Coronavirus in Hong Kong?


Two dogs in Hong Kong have tested positive for the new coronavirus after living in close contact with COVID-19 patients. Neither dog developed symptoms, and the dogs are not thought to have played any role in the owner’s (or anyone else’s) illness. 


Unfortunately, the first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, died soon after leaving quarantine and returning home. The cause of death is unknown because the owner declined a postmortem examination, but the stress of being separated from their owner for over two weeks may have played a role. The older dog had lived longer than the usual life span of 12-16 years, and may have had underlying health conditions.


The World Health Organization (WHO) reiterates that “there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.”


What’s the Difference Between COVID-19 and “Canine” and “Feline” Coronavirus?


While dogs and cats appear to be unaffected by SARS-CoV-2, they do have their own coronaviruses to deal with. Neither canine coronavirus nor feline coronavirus can infect people.


Dogs infected with canine enteric coronavirus (CECoV) typically develop diarrhea. Young puppies are at highest risk, but dogs of all ages usually recover uneventfully on their own or with symptomatic care. There is another type of coronavirus, canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), that is associated with some cases of kennel cough in dogs.


Feline coronavirus (FCoV) also tends to cause mild, self-limiting diarrhea, especially in kittens. In rare cases, however, the virus can go dormant in the cat’s body and later mutate into a new form that causes feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a disease that is almost always fatal.


What If COVID-19 Mutates? Could It Spread From Humans to Pets?


Most viruses can only infect a limited number of species, which is determined in large part by the virus’s ability to recognize receptors on host cells. However, as a group, coronaviruses seem predisposed to mutate and become able to infect new species.


For example, the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus outbreak was associated with dromedary camels and the 2002-2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus appears to have come from civet cats, with both viruses possibly originally arising in bats. Scientists don’t definitively know the source of SARS-CoV-2, but research is pointing towards bats as a likely source with an unidentified intermediary host also probably involved.


What You Can Do Now


It seems overwhelming when you’re faced with an outbreak such as COVID-19, and as a pet parent, you’re worried not only about yourself but your pets as well. Here are some things you can do right now.


Stay Informed 


It is important to recognize that viruses are constantly evolving. At this time, COVID-19 does not appear to be a problem for dogs and cats, but it’s possible that this could change in the future or as our understanding of the virus improves. 


The best thing you can do at this point is to stay informed by monitoring news from trusted sources. Check for current information on the CDC’s FAQs on COVID-19 and Animals.


Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19


As always, good hygiene is one of the best defenses against infectious agents of all sorts. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after being around sick people or handling animals or animal waste


The CDC states that “it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.”


If you or your pet is ill, seek appropriate medical or veterinary attention and follow a doctor’s recommendations when it comes to vaccination and other forms of preventative care.


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