Ask a UW Veterinarian: Concerns Around Pets and COVID-19


This expert response comes from  Ruthanne Chun, associate dean for  clinical affairs and director of UW Veterinary Care, with additional information from the American Veterinary Medical Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Question: Can people get COVID-19 from pets? Or can pets get COVID-19 from infected people or other animals?

Answer: Recent data has shown that domestic and wild animals can be infected with COVID-19. Preliminary studies suggest that dogs are less likely to become infected with and show signs of COVID-19 than are cats and ferrets.

Currently, it appears that people can spread the disease to cats. There are confirmed instances of cats becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, both in the laboratory and because of close contact with humans infected with the virus (known cases include several large cats at the Bronx Zoo and a small number of cats in private homes). Research from the UW School of Veterinary Medicine indicates that cats may be able to pass the virus to other cats.

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At this time, no studies or reports have demonstrated that cats (or other species) can transmit the disease back to people. Humans remain the biggest transmission risk to other humans.

If your pet lives indoors with you and is not in contact with any COVID-19 positive individual, it is safe to pet, cuddle, and interact with your pet. If you are COVID-19 positive or have symptoms, to the extent possible you should limit interactions with your pets to protect them from exposure to the virus, just as you would with other members of your home. Cat owners are also advised to keep their pets indoors, to limit the contact their cats have with other people and animals.

The use of alcohol- or hydrogen peroxide-containing cleaning agents, hand sanitizers, or sanitizing wipes to clean your pet’s fur or paws is not recommended and may be harmful.

There is currently 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 is not able to be cared for appropriately. As always, pets and other animals should be included in emergency preparedness planning, including keeping on hand a two-week supply of food and medications. Preparations should also be made for the care of animals should you need to be quarantined or hospitalized due to illness.

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