HSVMA Statement on Testing Companion Animals for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)

May 21, 2020 Update from USDA/APHIS Veterinary Services on Testing:

SARS-CoV-2 meets the criteria of an “emerging disease” according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Therefore, any infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States should be reported to the OIE2 by USDA. To meet the responsibility agreed upon by the US veterinary authority, all presumptive positive test results, excepting those that are the result of intentional exposure as part of a controlled research study in a laboratory, should be confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Service Laboratories (NVSL). If confirmed to be positive, these results will be reported to OIE. These confirmatory testing and reporting responsibilities apply to all unintentionally exposed animals, including but not limited to those that are the subject of any university, private, or government laboratory study and those living in contained laboratory settings, zoos, shelters, farms, residence facilities, homes, or in the wild.
Positive cases should be reported to the state veterinarian or state public health veterinarian. In the case of non-captive wildlife, state wildlife officials will also be contacted. State officials will work with the researcher on submitting appropriate samples types to NVSL for confirmatory testing using NVSL sample submission procedures. When requesting confirmatory testing for any presumptive positive result, please call ahead of sample shipment – during business hours 515-337-7551 – and email the specimen submission form (VS 10-4) and tracking information to: [email protected]. Cases are considered presumptive until confirmed by NVSL, and we urge researchers not to disclose results publicly until confirmation is completed
In accordance with international reporting guidelines, collecting additional samples and background information may be required to complete confirmatory testing. For additional information or questions about reporting requirements for SARS-CoV-2 in animals, contact USDA One Health at [email protected] (please use “Animal SARS-CoV-2 testing and reporting” in the subject line) 


HSVMA does not recommend routine testing of animals at this time for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease in people. Testing should only be done if public and animal health officials recommend it. Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the AVMA, CDC, USDA, American 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.

Shelters that are admitting pets from COVID-19-positive households or animals with an unknown exposure history to people with COVID-19 AND that have three or more animals in the shelter showing signs of what seems to be an infectious disease--where more common diseases have been ruled out--should contact their state public or animal health officials for possible testing. Based on what is known about SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals, including what is known about other coronaviruses, animals may present with a combination of fever, lethargy, and clinical signs of respiratory and/or gastrointestinal illness. These clinical signs are not at all unique to SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and others have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

If specimens are collected and sent to state animal health, university, or private laboratories for initial testing, all samples should be collected by a licensed and USDA-accredited veterinarian and taken in duplicate. Specimens testing positive at a state, university, or private laboratory must be confirmed through additional testing by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). Confirmatory testing at NVSL is only available currently for mammals. USDA is required to report any animal testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the United States to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Different states may have different requirements for testing and collaborating with and reporting to public health and animal health officials. The AVMA has provided links to this information, when available from the state, in its state orders spreadsheet.

It is important to remember that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is no evidence at this time that companion animals can transmit this virus to people and routine testing of pets is not currently advised. Good hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing, general cleaning, and routine disinfecting are good practices to avoid spreading many diseases, including COVID-19. Additionally, it is important to treat pets as any other family member: if someone in the household becomes sick, separate them from the sick family member and follow the same good hygiene practices. More information is available via the HSUS Shelter Toolkit.