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Can Pets Get COVID-19? Here’s What We Know …

There appears to be little if any risk of pets spreading the disease to people.

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Lots of pet owners are wondering whether COVID-19 is a threat to their non-human companions, especially following recent news that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the virus.

The answer is not entirely straightforward. There have been cases of the virus apparently spreading from humans to animals. But experts say there is little if any risk of pets spreading the disease to people.

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The World Organization for Animal Health stated on Jan. 4: “Several dogs and cats have tested positive to COVID-19 virus following close contact with infected humans.” But it added that “there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19.”

On April 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that the virus had been confirmed in a tiger at a zoo in New York.

“Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of respiratory illness,” the agency stated.

Health officials believe the animals became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was shedding virus. The zoo has been closed to the public since mid-March, and the first tiger began showing signs of sickness on March 27.

All of the large cats are expected to recover, according to the agency.

Based on the findings, the USDA advised:

Anyone sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with animals, out of an abundance of caution including pets, during their illness, just as they would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If a sick person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction

The agency added: “Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19. State animal and public health officials will continue to work closely with USDA and CDC to monitor this situation and will conduct additional testing if it is warranted.”

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The American Veterinary Medical Association states: “While two dogs (Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Belgium and one in Hong Kong) living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 have been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected.”

The association adds that “infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people.”

At the same time, it recommends: “Out of an abundance of caution and until more is known about this virus, if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.”

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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