April 28, 2020 

At this point, confirmed cases of companion animals being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 are extremely rare worldwide. Experts with the CDC and the World Organisation for Animal Health suspect that these rare cases are human-to-animal transmission. According to the CDC, based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. Information about this virus and disease changes rapidly and there are still many questions that are unknown and cannot be adequately answered yet.

The CDC guidelines recommend people follow the same social distancing and other guidelines with their pets as they would human family members. Those include:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
  • Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.

Dr. Gail Hansen, DVM, MPH of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association says, “It is critically important that pet owners keep these few positive cases in perspective and not make rash decisions about their pets. It is likely that the pets were infected by people with COVID-19. The key point is that pets should be treated the same as any other family member and follow the same social distancing guidelines when outside the home. We do know that our pets provide very important and positive roles in our lives.”

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the AVMACDCUSDAAmerican Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), or National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV). Veterinarians are requested to rule out more common causes of clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2 and contacting public or animal health officials. The situation is ever-changing, so the decision to test should be made collaboratively and coordinated with the attending veterinarian and local, state, or federal public and animal health officials. Read the full HSVMA statement on testing for COVID-19 here

CDC Guidelines for Clinic Preparedness During COVID-19
The CDC has also issued new interim guidance for veterinary clinics during the COVID-19 response  to facilitate preparedness and to ensure practices are in a veterinary clinical setting to help people and animals stay safe and healthy. Read these guidelines here.