Monkeypox

Monkeypox

Digitally-colorized electron microscopic image of a monkeypox virion. Source: CDC/Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Russell Regnery

In this article:
  • Find answers to frequently asked questions about monkeypox.
  • Know the signs of monkeypox and what species it affects.
  • Learn how monkeypox is transmitted and what can be done to prevent its spread.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Its symptoms are similar to smallpox, but the disease is less contagious and less severe.

The monkeypox virus, a member of the genus Orthopoxvirus, is closely related to the variola virus that causes human smallpox, as well as the vaccinia virus used in smallpox vaccines, and cowpox virus. Since smallpox was deemed to be globally eradicated in 1980, monkeypox has become the most important orthopoxviral disease in terms of public health.

What do pet owners need to know?

  • People can catch monkeypox from animals, but the chance of this happening in the United States is currently low. In fact, our understanding of how the disease has spread outside Africa suggests you may have a higher chance of catching monkeypox from another person.
  • Dogs are susceptible to monkeypox, and other pets may be as well. Virus transmission from infected people to pets may occur through close contact like hugging, kissing, licking, and sharing beds. To keep pets safe, people with symptoms of monkeypox—particularly pox-like skin sores—would do best to avoid all contact with animals. Do not surrender, euthanize, or abandon your pet because of potential exposure to an infected person.
  • The initial signs of monkeypox in animals are similar to signs of other, much more common infectious diseases. These include fever, cough, reddened eyes, runny nose, lethargy, and low appetite. If you notice these signs in your pet, and the pet has had no known exposure to someone with monkeypox, the cause is likely to be something else. Even so, these signs signal your pet is sick and should be seen by a veterinarian.
  • If your pet develops at least two of these signs or a pimple- or blister-like rash within 21 days after possible contact with someone with monkeypox, immediately contact your veterinarian. They can advise you on next steps, including testing to confirm infection.
  • If your pet is suspected or confirmed to have monkeypox:
    • Keep the animal separate from other animals—including wildlife—and minimize contact with people for at least 21 days after signs first appeared or until your pet has fully recovered. This is especially important for people who are immunocompromised, pregnant, or younger than 8 years, and those who have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema.
    • Follow CDC recommendations to protect others in the home from infection.
  • If someone in your home has monkeypox, you can take steps to protect your pet:
    • If that person did NOT have close contact with your pet after developing symptoms, have the pet stay with friends or family members outside the home until the infected person has recovered fully.
    • If that person DID have close contact, keep the pet at home and away from people and other animals for 21 days after the most recent contact. If possible, have another person in the home care for the animal until the infected person has recovered fully. The pet may need to be isolated in a facility outside the home if there are people at risk of severe disease outcomes present (e.g., immunocompromised, pregnant, younger than 8 years, or history of atopic dermatitis or eczema).
  • If you have monkeypox and have a healthy pet you must care for yourself, follow CDC recommendations to protect them from infection.