Companion Animals and COVID-19: What we know so far

Covid Cat 2 1

To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of nearly one million people around the world and infected millions more. As researchers work tirelessly to learn more about the coronavirus and find treatments for it, many NAVS supporters have asked us how the virus can affect our companion animals.

A recent article in the journal Science provided a good overview of what we know so far about COVID-19 and companion animals. Here are the highlights: 

  • People pose a bigger risk to companion animals than they do to us.The evidence we have so far suggests that it is unlikely for dogs and cats to pass the coronavirus on to people. According to Jane Sykes, chief veterinary medical officer at the University of California, Davis, and founder of the International Society for Companion Animal Infections Diseases, “Almost all pets that have tested positive have been in contact with infected humans.”
  • You likely do not need to get your companion animal tested for COVID-19.Although COVID-19 tests for companion animals are available, they are not commonly used. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the United States Department of Agriculture recommend routine testing of animals for the coronavirus at this time.  Even if pets test positive, there are no treatments that could be prescribed to them.
  • It appears that coronavirus infection in companion animals is mild compared to what is seen in people.Pet health insurance companies have not seen an increase in respiratory or other health claims since the pandemic started. Additionally, the Science article cites two studies that suggest cats are not likely to display symptoms of the infection.
  • Companion animal safety precautions have not changed.When we are out and about with our companion animals, safety rules should remain the same: social distance, wear a mask and wash hands frequently. Scott Weese, veterinarian at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, who specializes in emerging infectious diseases, noted that we should be more concerned about getting coronavirus from other people than from pets. He said, “The risk from people present at dog parks or vet clinics is much higher than the risk from dogs at those locations.” 

Of course, many questions still remain about the coronavirus. However, where companion animals are concerned, we may be able to breathe a bit easier.


Source: Grimm, D., “What does the COVID-19 summer surge mean for your cats and dogs?,” Science, August 14, 2020.