Urgent update : First dog dies of Coronavirus on Monday, March 16, 2020 

Ever since the World Health Organization declared in early March of 2020 that the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has become a global pandemic, people have started putting their dogs and cats in face masks, prompting the question: can dogs and cats get coronavirus?

Dogs and cats are vital family and household members, and as you focus on protecting yourself and your family from the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19, it’s only natural you’d want to protect your dog or cat as well. Not only does this apply to beloved pets, but perhaps even more so when you rely on that dog or cat to help you cope with a physical or emotional disorder or disability, such as in the case of emotional support or service animal.

Learn more: What is an emotional support animal?

Especially when your pet is a service animal or emotional support animal you depend on for your day-to-day activities, you want to know he or she is safe from the coronavirus and can remain healthy and strong to continue to serve you. What’s more, you also want to know that your ESA or service dog cannot carry the coronavirus and pass it on to you. Read on to find both assurances.

Can Dogs and Cats Get Coronavirus?

Idexx Laboratories Inc., a veterinary diagnostics agency in Westbrook, Maine, tested thousands of cat and dog specimens for coronavirus and found not a single positive result. This suggests that cats and dogs cannot contract coronavirus.

These findings have also been backed up by the WHO, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) So, even though the coronavirus apparently came from an animal source, dogs and cats can neither catch or spread it. Rather, the coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person.

There was one instance in Hong Kong of a dog being detected to have low levels of coronavirus, likely from transmission by a human, but even this animal did not get sick, and all evidence suggests the dog did not pass the coronavirus on to any humans or other animals either. Meanwhile, there are no cases of coronavirus found in cats or dogs in Italy, considered a hotbed of the pandemic.

If your dog or cat exhibits respiratory symptoms, it is, therefore, most likely a result of some other type of respiratory pathogen. In such cases, contact your pet’s vet for the proper solution.

Can Dogs and Cats Carry and Transmit Coronavirus?

Knowing your pets are safe from coronavirus and COVID-19 is undoubtedly a relief, but you’re also undoubtedly wondering whether you need to protect yourself and your family from your pets in regards to this coronavirus pandemic. In other words: can your pets carry the virus and give it to you?

As the Humane Society released in an official statement: “Infectious disease experts, as well as the CDC, OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection, including spreading COVID-19 to people.”

Precautionary Recommendations for Pet-owners Regarding Coronavirus

While dogs and cats can neither catch COVID-19 nor pass the coronavirus on to humans, doctors and health experience still advise certain precautions in dealing with your animals. First and foremost, do all you can to remain healthy when in proximity to your ESA or service animal. Even though the two of you can’t pass coronavirus to each other, either one of you can have one or more other pathogens present at the same time as the coronavirus that you could possibly pass to one another.

If your immunity is already compromised by the coronavirus, for example, any other pathogen could be easier to catch, the symptoms could be more severe, and it could exacerbate the problem and make it harder to recover. It can also be more difficult to recognize the presence of additional health concerns when already facing symptoms of COVID-19.

With this in mind, experts advise arranging a backup caretaker for pet dogs and cats in advance, so that if, indeed, you got diagnosed with COVID-19, you could isolate yourself from the animal while resting assured he or she is cared for and safe until you’ve recovered. Prepare an emergency kit in advance to help your caretaker to more easily and effectively look after your animal. This kit should include at least two weeks of your animal’s food and all required medications, with clear instructions on dosages and method of administration. If you cannot find an appropriate or trusted caretaker, ask your animal’s veterinarian or a public health official for assistance should you become ill and unable to properly look after your animal.

Obviously, with an emotional support dog or cat or service animal, you very likely might need to remain with the animal after receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis, in which case, experts advise you at least wear a well-fitting mask, even while home with your animal, and minimize your interaction with the animal until you’re once again free of the coronavirus.

For similar reasons, veterinary health experts also advise that you ensure your animal’s vaccinations are all up to date. Even though there’s no such thing as a COVID-19 vaccine just yet, not even for humans, making sure your animal’s vaccinations are all current helps ensure your safety from catching other illnesses at the same time as your body might be confronting the coronavirus. If you’re healthy and have no symptoms of COVID-19 or other transmittable illness, continue making normal appointments with your veterinarian for your animal’s regular checkups and vaccinations. That is, of course, as long as your veterinarian’s office is open for business. If the office is closed, try to leave a message requesting the vet contact you once reopening for business to schedule an appointment.

If, of course, you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, you and your service dog or cat or emotional support animal should remain home and minimize all contact with other people. If your animal gets sick after being exposed to a person with COVID-19, speak with the public health official assisting the individual diagnosed with COVID-19. This official can put you in touch with a public health veterinarian who can help ensure your animal gets the proper evaluation. Even though animals can’t catch COVID-19 or carry and transmit the coronavirus, this is still a brand new pathogen to modern science, and, therefore, every precaution should be taken and nothing should be presumed or taken for granted. That is the only way to ensure the health and well-being of you, your animal and the public at large.

Do not, however, bring your animal in to a veterinary clinic unless someone at the clinic instructs you to do so. This way, you don’t risk exposing any of the other workers or animal owners at the facility. When you call your veterinarian about coming in for an appointment, make sure you let the vet know your animal was exposed to the coronavirus (if applicable) so that the veterinarian or clinic can more fully prepare for the animal’s admittance and set aside an isolation area, if necessary.

If your animal is new to you, and especially if the animal was imported from a foreign country, take all necessary precautions while around the animal, avoid public interactions, and set up an appointment with your animal’s vet for a checkup and examination as soon as possible.

The bottom line is that, as long as you keep your animal clean and avoid unnecessary exposure to other people or animals, you can help do your part to protect yourself, your animal and the public from the coronavirus.