Can pets catch coronavirus? What you need to know

What you need to know about keeping your pets safe during the outbreak (Photo: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)What you need to know about keeping your pets safe during the outbreak (Photo: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
What you need to know about keeping your pets safe during the outbreak (Photo: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

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As cases of coronavirus continue to spread across the globe, the wellbeing of their furry companions are on the minds of many pet owners.

Is it possible for animals to catch COVID-19? Can they pass it on to humans? This is what you need to know about coronavirus and pets.

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Can animals get COVID-19?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states: “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.”

However, the statement goes on to advise pet owners to maintain good hygiene, like washing their hands with soap and water after contact with their pets.

“This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans,” WHO said.

Are there any known cases of coronavirus in pets?

The Hong Kong authorities have issued a statement to advise people against kissing their pets after a dog repeatedly tested “weak positive” for the virus.

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A spokesperson for the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said: “A pet dog had been tested weak positive to COVID-19 virus.”

The AFCD said that oral, nasal and rectal samples were collected from the dog for testing for the virus, and that the nasal and oral samples had tested a “weak positive” for the virus.

While the dog’s owner was infected with COVID-19, the AFCD said: “The dog does not have any relevant symptoms.”

Despite the “weak positive” this dog tested for, the announcement from the AFCD said: “At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people.”

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The department said that, to ensure public and animal health, that “mammalian pets of patients confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 virus to be put under quarantine by the AFCD”.

The dog was first tested on 26 February, where it showed low levels of the virus. Tests were then repeated on 28 February and 2 March, also returning “weak positive” results.

The department said that the dog would be returned to its owner once it returned a negative result.

Are animals contagious?

The Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) in Hong Kong said that an animal infected with coronavirus isn’t necessarily infectious to humans.

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The SPCA said in response to the news of the dog with the virus: “While the information tells us that the dog has a low level of infection, members of the public should note that the dog is showing no symptoms whatsoever.

“We have been informed the dog is currently very healthy and doing well at the quarantine centre.

“As the AFCD said, it is very likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission. The SPCA advises pet owners to exercise stringent personal hygiene.

“If an owner is suspicious of being infected with the virus, he/she shall consider limiting his/her contact with their pet animals.”

These are the symptoms of coronavirus (Photo WHO)

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Can animals spread coronavirus?

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states: “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”

Regarding animals recently imported from China, the CDC said: “As with any animal introduced to a new environment, animals recently imported from China should be observed daily for signs of illness.

“If an animal becomes ill, the animal should be examined by a veterinarian. Call your local veterinary clinic before bringing the animal into the clinic and let them know that the animal was recently in China.”

Similarly, the World Organisation for Animal Health says that the “predominant route or transmission of COVID-19 appears to be from human to human”.