Please find below some answers on the current situation regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus.
- What do we know about the COVID-19 virus and companion animals?
- Is there a vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus that my pet can receive?
- What preparations do I need to put in place for my pet if I need to self-isolate or if I am told to remain at home for a restricted period?
- What if I am ill and cannot take care of my pet?
- Can I walk my dog during the coronavirus outbreak?
- Should my pet wear a face mask?
What do we know about the COVID-19 virus and companion animals?
It is now known that SARS-CoV-2 can affect not only humans but also animals, including pets. Several published studies have shown that bats are reservoir hosts for many coronaviruses and have suggested that SARS-CoV-2 may have developed in intermediate hosts, such as pangolins.1
Observations and experimental studies report that dogs and cats are susceptible to COVID-19. Cats seem to have a higher susceptibility than dogs and also have the potential to transmit the disease to other cats.2
Pets that live in households with COVID-19 patients are at risk of contracting the disease from them and can spread the virus to other pets.1 However, there is currently no evidence that pets can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to humans.1
Is there a vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus that my pet can receive?
Recently developed vaccines for humans are just now (as of January 2021) starting to be administered globally.3
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which grants commercial licenses for pet vaccines, currently the Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB) is not accepting license applications for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for use in dogs or cats because the data does not indicate such a vaccine would have epidemiological value.4 This is because pets do not play an important role in the maintenance or transmission of the disease to humans.
What preparations do I need to put in place for my pet if I need to self-isolate or if I am told to remain at home for a restricted period?
Always refer first to your national regulations/recommendations regarding COVID-19 restrictions (self-isolation, restrictive period, home quarantine and lockdown).
In cases where for example people are told to stay at home or need to self-isolate, it is important to be prepared both in terms of caring for your family and your pet. For your pet this would mean that you have all the necessary things on hand to take care of your pet in the home environment:
- Food: at least 14 days’ supply of the normal food for your pet.
- Medicines: at least a 14-day supply of any prescribed medications which your pet requires
- Sanitation: pet litter and litter box for cats, poo bags for dogs
What if I am ill and cannot take care of my pet?
It is recommended that all pet owners put in place plans so that a friend or family member can help in case a pet owner becomes ill or must go to hospital. This may involve feeding your pet, taking them for a walk or caring for them in their own home until you fully recover. It is recommended that carers take all precautions if entering the home of an infected person, as the virus can survive on surfaces. If people do not have anyone to take care of their pets it is recommended that they contact their local animal welfare organisation/shelter to ask for their advice.
Can I walk my dog during the coronavirus outbreak?
The answer will depend on two things firstly what guidance/regulations your government has put in place regarding this point and secondly whether you can say yes to the following categories:
- you have no symptoms of COVID-19
- you don’t live with someone who’s showing symptoms or been diagnosed
- you don’t have any underlying conditions that would make you especially vulnerable
- you have not been instructed to self-isolate
If this is the case and your Government has not put in place any guidance or regulations regarding dog walking then yes you can go out with your dog (even in lockdown) as long as your walk is relatively short and kept within your own neighbourhood, however you should socially distance yourself, this means ensuring that you keep a safe distance from other people. It is also advised that you keep your dog on their lead where possible to minimise contact with other people/dogs. It is important for animals to get the daily exercise they need so if you are unable to walk your dog then your dog should be given regular access to the garden or an enclosed outside area. If they have to stay inside for long periods then they should be kept busy with enrichment for mental stimulation such as playing with toys or having chews/a Kong to play with during the day. Neighbours, friends, family, local shelters and community groups may also be able to assist with supporting people who cannot walk or take care of their pets during this time but all health and safety measures such as regular hand-washing and social distancing must be followed. In terms of cats, unless there are any government regulations/advice regarding letting cats outdoors, this should continue as normal.
Should my pet wear a face mask?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), masks can be harmful for pets and should not be used on them.4 Further, face masks made for pets may not be effective in preventing diseases transmitted by bodily fluid droplets5.
To protect your pet from other respiratory diseases, vaccinate your pet for Bordetella, parainfluenza and canine influenza, which are the most common vaccine-preventable respiratory diseases in pets.
2. Shi J, Wen Z, Zhong G, Yang H, Wang C, Huang B, et al. Susceptibility of ferrets, cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals to SARS–coronavirus 2. Science. 2020;368:1016–20.
3. COVID-19 vaccines (who.int)
4. Mink Coronavirus Vaccine (usda.gov)
5. If You Have Pets | COVID-19 | CDC