SARS-CoV-2 in animals

Small white dog sitting on owner's lap in parked car while owner checks in to veterinary clinic on his phone

Since the initial outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, there have been numerous reports of animals becoming infected with the virus. There’s still a lot to learn about how SARS-CoV-2 affects different animal species, but the primary domestic animals that have been infected are cats and dogs. These species are not easily infected under natural conditions, and there is no evidence that infected cats or dogs spread the virus to other animals or to people. Non-domestic animal species have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 as well, but evidence suggests that these infected animals also pose little risk to humans—even to handlers and caretakers in close contact—when appropriate personal protective equipment is used.

As veterinarians, we have responsibilities to care for the health and welfare of animals while also mitigating the risk to ourselves, our teams, our clients, and the general public. For pet owners, preparing in advance is key to keeping the whole family safe. The following resources can help pet owners plan for their pet’s care in the event that the owner or the pet is infected with SARS-CoV-2:

It is important to remember that there is no evidence at this time that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2. Accordingly, there is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately. Pets and people each need the support of the other, and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.

AVMA recommendations regarding SARS-CoV-2 and animals

National Pet Week

AVMA maintains its recommendations, which echo those of the CDC, USDA, and OIE, regarding SARS-CoV-2 and animals:

  • Animal owners without symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to practice good hygiene during interactions with animals. This includes washing hands before and after such interactions and when handling animal food, waste, or supplies.
  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors, when possible, to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals. Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • Those ill with COVID-19 should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. Have another member of your household or business take care of feeding and otherwise caring for any animals, including pets. If you have a service animal or you must care for your animals, including pets, then wear a cloth face covering; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them, and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
  • At this point in time, there is no evidence to suggest that domestic animals, including pets and livestock, that may be incidentally infected by humans play a substantive role in the spread of COVID-19.
  • Routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is NOT recommended. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2.
  • Human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person transmission and, based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. Accordingly, there is no reason to remove pets from homes, even if COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately.