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Last updated April 2, 2020. 3 minute read

Can pets get the novel coronavirus? Can they infect me?

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Dr. Tzvi Doron, DO

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease that began spreading in 2019. It is caused by the virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is a member of the coronavirus family. Some of the viruses in this family can jump from animals to people, as occurred with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). SARS-CoV-2 is the newest coronavirus to make this jump.

Myths about how the virus is spread and who is at risk have been circulating around the internet, and some of these have to do with your pets. Here’s what you need to know about pets or companion animals and the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest, in general, that you wash your hands after touching animals (including dogs) because they can spread other illnesses to humans—not coronavirus.

Can pets get coronavirus?

There is no current evidence that pets or companion animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. One dog, owned by a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong, tested a “weak” positive for the virus in late February 2020, but the territory’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a statement that it may have been due to “environmental contamination.” As of February 28, 2020, the dog had not shown any symptoms of the virus (Detection of low level of COVID-19 virus in pet dog, 2020).

The process of a virus jumping from animals to humans is called zoonosis. “Reverse zoonosis” is the opposite: when a virus jumps from a human to an animal. Although we understand this process far less than the animal-to-human model, a 2014 review of existing studies did find examples of it. Humans have passed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), influenza A virus, and Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm) to animals (Messenger, 2014).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest, in general, that you wash your hands after touching animals (including dogs) because they can spread other illnesses to humans—not coronavirus. If you are sick with COVID-19, the CDC suggests you treat animals as you would other members of the family in terms of the precautions you take. That means separating yourself from them and letting someone else care for them while you’re sick. If you do need to be in the same room or care for them, wear a mask, and wash your hands before and after interacting with them (2019-nCoV Frequently Asked Questions and Answers, 2020).

If you have COVID-19 and you think your pet has become ill, call your vet before taking them into the veterinary office or clinic so they can tell you the best way to proceed. Your pet may need to be quarantined and observed for symptoms. But, again, most health organizations agree that there’s no reason to believe humans can pass SARS-CoV-2 to animals, including pets.

Can my pet infect me with coronavirus?

There’s currently no reason to believe pets can contract or spread COVID-19, according to the CDC. If you have recently adopted an animal that needs to be imported from China, it will need to meet requirements from the CDC and USDA to enter the United States. As with any other pet, if they become ill, call your vet before bringing them into the office. In this case, let them know your pet was recently in China (2019-nCoV Frequently Asked Questions and Answers, 2020).