Coronavirus in pets
Last updated: 11 June 2020
- There are many different types of coronavirus found in humans and animals; ‘SARS-CoV-2’ is a new strain that causes ‘Covid-19’.
- Fortunately, pets appear to be mostly unaffected by Covid-19 and despite over 6 million human cases around the world, there have only been around 20 pets found to be positive (none in the UK).
- The small number of pets that have tested positive for Covid-19 so far have all been in contact with a human suffering from Covid-19 (or infected in a laboratory setting), and most showed no symptoms / were not ill.
- Pet owners should not be concerned that their pets are a risk to them, pets have a very low risk of contracting the virus, and there is no evidence to show that they can pass it on to humans.
- However, because fur can carry the virus like any other surface, we advise pet owners to keep their pets distanced from other people and pets, and to maintain particularly good hygiene.
- If you have Covid-19, avoid contact with your pets as much as possible (just as you would with other people in your home).
- As usual, during the Covid-19 pandemic, phone your vet practice if you are concerned that your pet is unwell, but please remember that they are working very hard under incredibly difficult circumstances, and may not be able to offer the service they would normally.
What is a coronavirus?
There are many different types of coronavirus; they are a large family of viruses - some affect humans, others affect animals and some affect both. Human coronaviruses include the common cold and SARS. Animal coronaviruses include Kennel Cough (‘Canine respiratory coronavirus’) and ‘Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)’.
Can pets catch Covid-19?
Despite humans living with animals across the globe, the number of animal infections has stayed very low. To date, there have been over 6 million human cases of Covid-19 worldwide (with over 333,000 deaths), but only around 20 pets have tested positive for the virus (and there have been no deaths related to Covid-19). None of these animal cases have been in the UK. The animals that have tested positive for Covid-19 include cats, dogs, ferrets, mink, lions and tigers, and they had all been in contact with someone or another animal with Covid-19 (strongly suspected or confirmed). Most of the animals that tested positive for Covid-19 had no symptoms, and those that did, only had mild respiratory symptoms.
Pet owners should not be concerned about their pets being a risk to them; the main source of Covid-19 infection is human-to-human transmission.
Are there any symptoms of Covid-19 in pets?
The majority of the animals that have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus have had no symptoms or signs of illness at all. Those who did show symptoms had mild respiratory signs such as coughing or breathing faster than usual.
It’s important to remember that almost all animals won’t be affected by the virus, but if you have had Covid-19 and are concerned about symptoms your pet is showing, it’s best to phone your vet.
Can pets carry Covid-19 on their fur?
Yes, theoretically, just like any other surface, the Covid-19 virus can be carried on a pet’s fur (if they come into contact with it). This is why it’s important to:
- Keep yourself and your pet a safe distance away from other people and their pets.
- Avoid touching other people’s pets.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- If you are shielding or are showing symptoms of Covid-19, consider keeping your cat indoors, however do not do this if they seem stressed or unhappy by being restricted.
Can I touch my pet as normal?
Yes, if you are healthy (not suffering from Covid-19) it’s fine to interact with your pet as usual, just wash your hands regularly and avoid kissing them/ allowing them to lick you. If you have Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your pet, just as you would with other people in your home.
Vet care during lockdown
At the moment, your veterinary practice will be doing their best to provide necessary treatment to sick and injured pets but will be offering an altered service due to reduced staffing and social distancing guidelines. As usual, phone your vet practice if you are concerned that your pet is unwell, but please remember that they will be working very hard under incredibly difficult circumstances, and may not be able to offer the service they would normally.
Is there a Covid-19 vaccination for pets?
No, there is no vaccine available for Covid-19. There is a vaccine that is occasionally used to protect puppies from the strain of coronaviruses that cause diarrhoea, but this vaccine doesn’t provide any protection against other strains of coronavirus. It’s unlikely that a vaccine will be necessary because if animals continue to be vastly unaffected by Covid-19.
PetWise Pet Health Hub – brought to you thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery
Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst