- Last month, a dog was quarantined in Hong Kong after having tested a "weak positive" for the novel coronavirus igniting public worry about the possibility of pets becoming infected.
- Medical experts are saying that there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect pets, which have different cell receptors.
- One precaution you can take to protect your pets from the pandemic is to pack an emergency "go bag" with supplies your pet may need in the case of a quarantine.
Here’s one less coronavirus worry: Your pets are likely safe from the virus according to medical experts.
Concerns that domestic animals could become ill with and spread COVID-19, which has so far killed at least 8,200 people around the world, were raised last month when a dog was quarantined in Hong Kong after having tested a “weak positive” for the virus. Chinese officials warned the public against kissing their pets, but now experts are saying there is currently no evidence that dogs or cats are at risk for becoming sick from the coronavirus or spreading it to people.
Can your pet get coronavirus?
Dr. Will Sanders, head of the joint veterinary-master’s in public health degree program at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana College of Veterinary Medicine, told Business Insider that in the Hong Kong case, the virus may have been passed from the owner who had a confirmed case of coronavirus to the dog. He noted that most house pets aren’t at risk and are unlikely to carry and spread the virus around to humans.
“The virus seems well adapted to spread between people and, therefore, unlikely to jump to dogs or cats,” Sander told Insider in an email.
Viruses hijack our cells by fitting into certain cell receptors like a copied key into a lock. But because domestic animals have different receptors than humans, many viruses contagious between humans can’t be transmitted between people and pets. For instance, the common cold. However, animals do have their own versions of those diseases, and experts have not ruled out the possibility that there could be a canine coronavirus specific to dogs. But it isn’t the same thing as COVID-19. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the quarantined dog in Asia may have tested positive due to a dysfunctional test or environmental contamination.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there is no need to panic about pets falling ill to or carrying coronavirus because there is no evidence that pets can become infected by it. Notably, there have been no reports of animals in the U.S. becoming infected with the virus.
How can you keep your animals safe from the pandemic?
Even if there is some unknown way that a pet could contract COVID-19, if your household is healthy and your pets are kept indoors, they are probably not at risk. However, if you do want to take extra precautions to protect them, take the same precautions that you would for any other health concern.
“In much the same way that you can protect pets every day, best practices include making sure your pets are up to date on vaccinations, receiving at least annual veterinary check ups, and stay on preventatives for heartworm and fleas and ticks,” Sander told Insider.
At this time, the primary concern for animal health experts (as well as human medical experts) is a rapidly dwindling supply of medical equipment like masks, sanitizers, and gloves, due to public panic-buying. So avoid taking part in the mass hoarding of those hot commodities.
As we’ve all heard many times, simply washing your hands with soap and water is the most important precaution you can take to slow the spread of the dangerous new virus. By the way, you should make a habit out of always washing your hands after petting or snuggling with animals, particularly the drooly ones. They might be adorable, but they can also transmit harmful bacteria, like Salmonella and E. Coli, and even certain parasites. Not so cute.
Insider reports that another precaution you can take right now, according to Sander, is to stock up on pet food, drinking water, medications, and any other supplies you might need in the case of a coronavirus-induced 14-day quarantine. He suggests packing an emergency go-bag for yourself and your furry family members.