March 30th, 2020: Pets and COVID-19

March 30th, 2020: Pets and COVID-19

The following is an excerpt of recommendations provided to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association membership, to provide valid information for pet owners and answers to questions regarding COVID-19 and animals, particularly companion animals.
“My clients heard about animals testing positive for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), and
are worried about their health and the health of their families. What advice
should I be providing?”
March 30, 2020
Veterinarians should discuss what is known and what is not known about COVID-19 in
animals to help their clients make an informed choice about precautions. This is a good
time to emphasize basic precautionary measures to prevent transmission of zoonotic
diseases between humans and animals (e.g. handwashing, not sharing food or letting
them lick your face).

Advise your clients that if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating due to
contact with a COVID-19 case, they should follow similar recommendations around
their animals, as they would around people in these circumstances:
• avoid close contact (petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food) with
their animals during the illness
o practice good handwashing and avoid coughing and sneezing on animals
• if possible, have another member of their household care for their animals
o if this is not possible, they should always wash their hands before and
after touching animals, their food and supplies, and good respiratory
etiquette (e.g. cough/sneeze into a tissue or elbow, not hands)
• limit their animal’s contact with other people and animals outside the household
until the owner’s illness is resolved
Depending on individual values and preferences, including tolerance for risk and
uncertainty, some owners may worry to the point that they wish to surrender their
animal, which creates concern for animal welfare. Some considerations when helping
them to weigh the risks vs the benefits are:
• The greatest risk of infection by far is still from contact with infected people
• Infected people are believed to be the source of the virus reported in pet
animals (human-animal transmission rather than animal-human)
• Animals can be a great comfort and make us happy during times of stress and
there are many health benefits to owning a pet, particularly during physical
distancing
• There is no reason at this time to think that surrendering an animal, thereby
potentially compromising its welfare, will decrease a pet owner’s risk
• There is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19. The risks of
getting infected from contact with an animal are theoretical at this point
• Any theoretical risk is temporary. Generally speaking, if an animal were to
become infected from contact with an ill person in the household, once the
person (or household) is able to come out of self-isolation, their animals can
also be safely out in the community