Can Dogs Get Coronavirus? Here’s What We Know About Pets & Pandemic Safety

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The coronavirus pandemic has left all of us worrying about the health of loved ones — including our pets.

Early in the outbreak, experts assured pet owners that their furry friends were safe from the ravages of COVID-19. But over time, isolated cases of infections among a handful of cats and dogs made news.

So, how worried should you be that your pet might become sick with COVID-19?

Concept of Coronavirus in Dogs Represented By Lethargic-Looking Bulldog Asleep on Owner's Lap |

Coronavirus in dogs, cats and other pets

“Thankfully, infection with COVID-19 is a very low risk to our pets,” says Dr. Lesa Staubus, rescue veterinarian with American Humane, the country’s first national animal humane organization founded in 1877.

However, some pets are at slightly greater risk than others. Dogs appear to be “highly resistant” to infection, and are not thought to be a source of spreading the virus to other animals, Staubus says.

On the other hand, cats are more susceptible to the virus and the resulting respiratory illness, and appear to be able to spread it to other animals of the same species, she adds.

“Some animals — like mice, chickens and pigs — do not seem to get infected or spread the virus at all,” Staubus says. “Other animals such as ferrets and hamsters are readily and seriously infected.”

Protecting your pet

Because there is a small chance your pet could contract COVID-19, it’s important to take precautions if you become sick with the virus.

“Treat your pet just as you would any other family member,” Staubus says.

That means minimizing contact and shared airspace with both family members and pets. Also, consider wearing a mask and gloves while you are sick.

“Help protect all of those you love until you are sure you are no longer shedding the virus,” Staubus says.

Exercise caution with your pet when outside the home as well, such as “social distancing from all people and animals that are not a part of your home unit,” Staubus says.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping cats inside instead of letting them roam freely. It also says you should maintain 6 feet of distance between dogs and others in most public situations.

Striking the right balance

However, it’s a mistake to lock up your pet for the duration of the pandemic, Staubus says. This is particularly true if you own a dog.

Staubus notes that socialization is important for dogs so that they are able to interact safely with people and other animals. Locking down your dog can prevent or hamper socialization.

“Older dogs that have already developed good social manners will probably be less affected, while younger dogs may develop anxieties due to the lack of social interaction,” Staubus says.

Such anxieties can manifest as shyness and fear — or, on the other extreme, protectiveness and aggression.  So, striking the right balance between protecting your pet and giving it social time is important.

“Just as we strive to have real contact with at least a small number of people to maintain our mental health, it’s good for our pets as well to have animal friends that they can interact with,” Staubus says.

Getting your pet back to pre-pandemic life

Fortunately, the dangers associated with the pandemic are expected to subside at some point. But even such a happy event might be a mixed blessing for pets.

“With owners spending more time working from home now, some animals may develop separation anxiety when their owners do finally go back to life as it was before the pandemic,” Staubus says.

Again, this is particularly true for dogs. American Humane offers several tips for reducing social anxiety in dogs, including:

  • Enrolling your dog in doggy day care, hiring a dog walker or bringing your pet to work if it is allowed.
  • Purchasing interactive toys to keep your dog occupied when you are away from home.
  • Making sure your dog gets exercise before you go to work.
  • Crating puppies and young dogs — or confining them to certain areas of the house — while you are away.

Overall, Staubus encourages owners to educate themselves about positive reinforcement training techniques that can “help you keep your pet mentally and physically healthy as we ride out this pandemic.”