In early March 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 novel coronavirus is a global pandemic. In the panic over the spread of the virus, people are worried not only about their own health but the health of their dogs, cats, and other pets.
Dogs wearing face masks have popped up in photos across social media, causing pet owners everywhere to ask: can dogs get coronavirus?
Can dogs contract COVID-19?
Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, but this specific novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is believed to not be a health threat to dogs.
The World Health Organization has stated, “There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.”
Can dogs spread COVID-19?
Li Lanjuan, an epidemiologist and representative of China’s National Health Commission cautioned pet owners in China to be vigilant about their own health and the health of their pets: “If pets go out and have contact with an infected person, they have the chance to get infected. By then, pets need to be isolated. In addition to people, we should be careful with other mammals especially pets.”
The CDC says that “while this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person.” The CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, “but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this novel coronavirus.”
Two dogs in Hong Kong whose owners tested positive for COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus in what health officials characterize as “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.” Local government health officials emphasize that “there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they become sick.”
Is it safe to pet my dog?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, petting a dog’s fur is a low risk. The AVMA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Gail Golab says, “We’re not overly concerned about people contracting COVID-19 through contact with dogs and cats.” And there’s science behind that: “The virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs,” Golab says. “Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch.”
Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, says, “The CDC has not reported any cases of pets or other animals becoming infected with COVID-19 in the United States or anywhere else in the world, including hotbeds like Italy.” Dr. Klein urges common sense best practices when it comes to our pets: “If you have children, you wouldn’t have them touch a puppy and put their fingers in their mouth, because they can have fecal contamination,” he says. “The general practice of washing our hands after touching a puppy or a dog—that’s normal hygiene.”
Can I walk my dog?
Physical and mental exercise are extremely important for dogs and dog owners alike. Before taking a walk, check your local regulations. As long as the area where you reside remains safe enough to venture outside, dog owners feeling healthy and well should plan to continue walking their dogs daily, albeit with added safety measures. Observe any local ordinances concerning curfews, even if that means adjusting your dog walking schedule.
Owners should wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after each walk. Consider carrying around a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer during your walks. Practice social distancing measures by walking your dog in uncrowded areas when possible. If you live in a big city, make efforts to take your dog down less-heavily-trafficked blocks, or try adjusting walks to less busy times of day and night.
How can dog owners protect dogs from coronavirus?
For now, healthy pet owners in the U.S. don’t need to do anything other than follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal, including dogs and cats. If you test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, experts recommend that you should “restrict contact with [your] animals — both to avoid exposing the pets and to prevent getting the virus on their skin or fur, which might be passed on to another person who touches the animal.” To reduce the spread of all germs, you may consider wiping your pet’s paws when they come in and out of the house with a paw cleaner and paw wipes.
Dogs do not need a face mask to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. If you are still concerned or notice a change in your dog’s health, speak to a veterinarian. And the most important protection of all: Under no circumstances should owners abandon their dogs, cats, or other pets because of COVID-19 fears.