Coronavirus and Pets: FAQs for Owners

Jun 10, 2020 / Infectious Disease / Public Health / Cats / Dogs

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These FAQs were last updated on June 10, 2020.

Can pets get the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are aware of a very small number of pets worldwide, including dogs and cats, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with people with COVID-19. The USDA has received four reports of cats becoming mildly sick with COVID-19, including one in Illinois, and one dog in the United States. For a complete list of dates of confirmed cases in animals in the United States, please see USDA’s website here.

Researchers and authorities are constantly learning about the new coronavirus, but it appears it can spread from people to animals and between animals (particularly cats) in some situations.

All animals diagnosed in the United States have completely recovered.

At this time, there is no evidence that any animals, pets or livestock, play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 infection to people.

It is advisable that pet owners and veterinarians strictly observe hand-washing and other infection-control measures, as outlined by the CDC when handling animals. If sick with COVID-19, you should treat your pet like you would any person you interact with and minimize interactions as much as possible.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. We will update as new information becomes available.

Listen and Learn: Podcasts on New Coronavirus

Download explanations of the outbreak from veterinarians Jim Lowe and Ashley Mitek on The Round Barn podcast website.

In language everyone can understand, they explain how viruses move from one species to another, occasionally with devastating effects on the human population.

You might surprised how much a pig vet’s expertise in biosecurity relates directly to social distancing and other risk-reduction measures.

Additional Resources from the College:

Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for dogs and cats?

There is no vaccine for COVID-19 for people or animals at this time.

Veterinarians are familiar with other coronaviruses. Similar but different coronavirus species  cause several common diseases in domestic animals. Many dogs, for example, are vaccinated for another species of coronavirus (Canine Coronavirus) as puppies. However, this vaccine does not cross protect for COVID-19.

Can veterinarians test for COVID-19 in pets?

Yes, but because of the minimal risk, USDA, CDC, AVMA, and others are not recommending pets be tested for COVID-19 at this time. As of March 15, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the College of Veterinary Medicine has the capability to test for the new COVID-19 in pets. The test request must be submitted by a veterinarian and must include the rationale for the test. Requests will then be sent to the state animal health officer and state public health veterinarian for approval on a case-by-case basis. In the event of a positive result, these same officials must be notified before the referring veterinarian. Please contact the diagnostic laboratory with any further questions at 217-333-1620.

What animal did COVID-19 originate from?

Previous novel human coronavirus outbreaks, SARS and MERS, originated in horseshoe bats and passed through other species, such as palm civet and camels. Research is still ongoing to identify the suspected animal source for the COVID-19 outbreak and any intermediate hosts it passed through.

If I am diagnosed with COVID-19, how do I protect my pet?

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the CDC recommend that anyone sick with COVID-19 should maintain separation from household pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets.

Should my pet wear a face mask in public?

No. Face masks may not protect your pet from disease transmission and may cause other breathing difficulties.

Should I wear a face mask?

Updated April 1: N95 respirators, and any other medical-grade face masks (such as surgical face masks), should be reserved for human medical personnel only, as ordered by the Surgeon General of the United States. N95 masks, when properly fitted and worn, are the only masks that will block transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

Updated April 5: CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

How do I protect my pet and myself from COVID-19?

We recommend that everyone follows the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America:

If someone needs to enter the residence of COVID-19 patient in order to care for a pet there, what precautions should be taken?

This information has been provided by Dr. Connie Austin, the State Public Health Veterinarian in Illinois.

Direct person-to-person contact is the most likely way that COVID19 is transmitted (e.g., being within 6 feet of an infected person) for at least 10 minutes. Additionally, the possibility exists for infection from contaminated surfaces (i.e., someone could touch a contaminated surface and then touch their face: nose, eyes, mouth), but that is believed to be a far less likely means of transmission. As time goes by, the amount of virus that is viable decreases on surfaces.

If someone needs to go into a house to feed/water/walk a pet(s) from a COVID-19 house/apartment, the following steps are recommended to reduce the risk to the entering person:

  • Wear gloves and clothes that can be easily washed,
  • Bring a plastic bag,
  • Avoid as much as possible touching surfaces in the house,
  • As you leave the house put gloves into the plastic bag,
  • After you attend to the pet and go home, wash clothes and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Wearing a cloth mask can protect others from your respiratory secretions as you go out in public.

If someone needs to take the pet(s) out of the house:

  • Wear gloves and clothes that can be easily washed,
  • Avoid as much as possible touching surfaces in the house,
  • Have a leash or carrier to use to put the pet in so the pet can be taken out of the house safely,
  • Keep the pets together and isolated away from other pets for 14 days out of an abundance of caution,
  • Wash hands/clothes after leaving the house.
  • Wearing a cloth mask can protect others from your respiratory secretions as you go out in public.

What other precautions are recommended?

Visitation to nursing homes and long-term care facilities by service animals and their handlers should be discouraged at this time.


Expert Reviewers:

  • Richard Fredrickson, DVM, MS, Director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Yvette J. Johnson-Walker, DVM, MS, PhD, Faculty, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Affiliate Faculty, UIC School of Public Health
  • Jim Lowe, DVM, MS, Associate Professor, Veterinary Clinical Medicine
  • William Sander, DVM, MPH, Assistant Professor, Preventative Medicine & Public Health
  • Leyi Wang, DVM, MS, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory


Photo by Agatha on Unsplash