13 min

Pets & Coronavirus: We Asked A Vet For A COVID-19 Update

What's the latest information available on pets and coronavirus? In Pawp's Ask A Vet series, Dr. Laura Robinson explains pet care during COVID-19.


Updated November 11, 2022 • Published July 16, 2020

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Pets & Coronavirus: We Asked A Vet For A COVID-19 Update

In our Ask A Vet series, Pawp interviews Dr. Laura Robinson on Instagram Live about pets and COVID-19 and taking care of your dog or cat during Coronavirus. The questions we asked came from the Facebook group Ask A Vet. If you’d like a vet to answer any of your pet-related questions, join the group and post, or tune into the Instagram Live on Mondays at 1 pm ET. This interview with Laura Robinson, DVM has been transcribed and edited for length and clarity.

What's The Update On Pets And Coronavirus?

A lot of what I'm referring to is going to be based on the CDC guidelines and stuff that they've published. Basically the update now is that a small, a very small number of some cats and dogs around the world have been infected with COVID. Right now, with just considered and general, like a very low risk of animals having any part of spreading the disease, of our pets having any part in spreading it. Especially from them back to us. There are some cases where dogs and cats have come back positive for the virus. Some of them aren't showing any symptoms at all. But they've just been able to isolate it from their nasal passageway or something.

Have Any Pets Gotten Sick From Coronavirus?

A couple have gotten sick. But usually it's very mild respiratory symptoms. And again, there's no evidence that they have any role in spreading the disease back to us. So right now, in general, the risk is very low. Kind of the precautions recommended as of now, are that, just kind of treat your pet like another member of the family. Just to be on the safe side.

If someone in your family does have COVID, or someone that you live with, go ahead and isolate the pet from them. And best to practice social distancing with your own pet. You know, when you take them out, keep them on a leash, try to limit contact between dog to dog and other random people. There's also no evidence that it can stay on their fur, something like that and be spread back to people or, anything like that. So right now the risk is very low. But as a precaution, treat them like any other person in your house.

What Animals Have Contracted COVID-19?

There's been a couple other random animals elsewhere. I think there's some minks, which are kind of like ferrets, in the Netherlands. That were on a farm there. And they've developed respiratory and GI signs, but they think it's because the worker there had COVID symptoms. So again, people spreading it to animals is possible. But it seems to be pretty limiting in terms of their clinical signs. But no evidence again that they could have it and then spread it back to people. And again, I think a couple of people were aware initially. There was a couple lions and tigers at a zoo that had it. But again, that was linked to a worker having COVID, and coming into contact with them. So again, no evidence that they can spread it back to people after that. So, no new stories right now.

Read More: How To Care For Your Pet While Social Distancing

Should Pets Wear Masks?

No. Let's definitely not do that. They can easily overheat. And they're not like us, we could sweat, we can release heat other ways. But dogs and cats can't. So they could overheat and things like that, if you're putting a face mask on them. So again, since the risk of them kind of contracting it is low, and even when they do, minimal clinical signs, I would avoid that.

Can Pets Be Tested For Coronavirus?

Yes. There are labs that are making that available. Now I have yet to do that with any patients of mine personally. But I know that the tests are available if people were to request them. That you're able to, if you want to.

How Have Vet Visits Changed During The Pandemic?

The majority, I would say about 90% where I'm at, in Southern California, are still basically closed. We're not letting any people inside unless it's for a euthanasia or something. So right now it's only drop-off appointments. So you get there, you call when you're outside, one person goes out and gets the pet. And then I do all the medicine over the phone. Tell them what I'm seeing, get okay for diagnostics, and then call them again with what I'm thinking, and then go from there.

Read More: What You Need To Know About Virtual Vet Appointments

So again, I think, unless you have to go to the vet, your pet's sick, I would try to postpone annuals and stuff like that, that aren't super urgent. And going off that example, I know you guys have a really great new platform online, that you can log in and chat with a vet, too. So if you're able to, if it's something more mild, that you maybe could get some advice online, and avoid physical contact with other people. And save a visit to the vet.

Can Pets Be Asymptomatic Carriers?

There have been cases where the virus has been isolated in dogs and cats that aren't showing any symptoms at all. And so yes, it is possible for them to be asymptomatic. But they think that the virus probably just lives in them for a limited period of time. And it's not super infectious, like it is with most people. So again, it's very rare for them to show symptoms of respiratory signs and stuff that people do. And again, even though it's possibly being isolated from them, it doesn't mean that that can, just because they're asymptomatic, that they could spread it back to people. There's so far zero evidence of that. So that's important.

pawp bored dog in isolation looking at window

Should Cats Stay Indoors During COVID-19?

I would try, during this period, to keep your cats indoors as much as possible. And try to limit them from going outside. Just in case potential contact with someone. Or who knows what they're doing when they're outside, wandering around. So, if you're able to keep them inside without them going totally crazy, then I definitely would try to do that for this time. And try to practice quarantining with your cat too.

Read More: Can Cats Get Coronavirus?

Is It OK To Share Food With Your Dog?

Right now, they're still saying that the virus is spread by respiratory secretions. So you probably wouldn't spread it sharing food. But again, it's possible. I mean, I think right now everyone should lean on the side of caution. And try to just avoid anything that could potentially spread it, spread germs between all of us.

Read More: 12 Human Foods That Are Toxic To Dogs

How Are Vets Protecting Pets From COVID-19?

We're trying as much as possible to limit it to stuff when the dog or cat's actually sick. And postpone things that aren't super emergencies, or anything like that. And we are obviously all, we're all wearing face masks back there. And we try to use gloves. Not share pens. When the pets do go outside to be in contact with people, they're wearing gloves. We clean the pens between patients, and everything like that. So, we're practicing all of that kind of behind the scenes, just like it would be if you're going to see your doctor. So we're kind of doing all of that too. But we have stayed pretty busy, surprisingly.

What Cases Are Vets Seeing During The Pandemic?

I think some of it is that people are home, spending more time with their dogs and cats. So people are noticing things that they wouldn't normally notice when they're gone all day at work. So we've stayed pretty busy, even with trying to postpone non-emergency stuff. So we're seeing all our normal cases: itchy dogs, ear infections, sneezing, coughing, GI stuff. A lot of people are adopting right now too. So we're still doing vaccinating puppies and kittens and stuff. Because they still have to be vaccinated, even though it's not an emergency. But it could be if they were exposed to something like distemper, or parvo virus, or something.

pawp Telemedicine veterinarian provides a diagnosis for dog

Should You Only Go To The Vet For An Emergency During The Pandemic?

We're trying to postpone everything that's not an emergency. I haven't gotten a lot of people that want their dog or cat to be tested. It hasn't really come up many times, surprisingly. So I don't know if people are just staying informed about that stuff or not. But yeah, it hasn't been too much of a concern with COVID, specifically.

When Will Vets Start Operating Normally Again?

We were thinking we would probably be opening up right now. But now we're seeing a huge wave of businesses trying to reopen and the cases going up a ton. We, in Southern California, have no plans to reopen, really anytime soon. We'll probably stay like this for at least a few more months.

Can You Talk To A Vet Online?

Vets are really trying to limit their clinic to emergency visits. And you want to relieve them from any extra stress, or any extra workload that's unnecessary. And the best way to do that is to chat with these vets. And you can also send pictures of what's going on with your pet. So that they can get a sense of what's going on. You can chat with them. And then they will tell you if you need a definite physical exam. So this is a great way to go about it.

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