Can a pet get COVID-19? While SARS-CoV-2 is, indeed, classified specifically as a human coronavirus, cross-species transmission may be possible, although reports of this have been few and far between.
Is the star of your household at risk? Honestly, this is the question that’s been top of mind for us these last two years. Good luck herding your cat into quarantine.
Can pets get COVID-19?
It sounds crazy, but a “very small number” of non-human pets have, in fact, been diagnosed with COVID-19 globally. These transmissions have been attributed to human-to-pet interactions in close proximity, although the general consensus is that the risk you pose to your cat or dog is quite low.
Few of these cases have resulted in severe illness, hospitalization, or the death of the animal, thankfully. If you’re concerned, experts suggest giving your vet a call before taking your pet into the clinic, lest you risk infecting other animals (and, potentially, even their owners).
The symptoms of COVID-19 in pets looks a lot like the list for human beings with COVID:
- Shortness of breath
- Discharge from the nose and eyes
It might not always be easy to identify COVID, especially if your pet is naturally convalescent. How does testing animals for COVID-19 even work, anyway?
Is there a COVID test for animals?
The short answer: yes, COVID-19 tests for animals exist, but not in the same way that they’ve been developed for human use. Some of these tests have been created by private firms and organizations; others originated as tools of internal subject surveillance within a corporate laboratory setting.
You might be wondering: how can an ordinary person test a pet for COVID without having a man on the inside? There are many avenues that bend toward a COVID-19 test for a dog or cat—some institutions and universities conducting research studies, for example, offer animal test kits in exchange for trial participation (this one from 2020, for example). Other resources focus more on those in agriculture, zoo-keeping, endangered species preservation, and other related industries, and less so on individual care for residential pets.
These tests haven’t exactly been approved by the FDA; technically, because they were designed for animal use specifically, they actually aren’t required to be. The FDA does enjoy a position of post-market regulatory oversight, however, which means that if any of these options prove to be problematic, they’re free to simply pull them from the market.
COVID-19 prevention in pets
The FDA, admittedly, deals primarily in the well-being of people, not animals. It does play a role in regulating pet food and other pet-related products and medical devices, however, but none of these products or services have anything to do with COVID-19.
The baseline advice for anybody living in the same household with a positive COVID case is to isolate from one another. This provision will be just as valid for any pets that you have in the house; partitioning the home with child-safe barriers may be one smart way to keep everybody separate, dogs and cats included.
If you yourself become sick, the CDC recommends asking a friend to look after your pet until you recover fully. If this isn’t an option for you, the CDC suggests actually masking up when close to your dog or cat, as well as washing your hands before interacting with them and avoiding contact with their eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
COVID tests for pets: because your entire family matters
Is Fido feeling under the weather? The CDC recommends that you consult your pet’s veterinarian before jumping to any conclusions. They’ll be more than happy to direct you to the appropriate resources—local animal testing, COVID treatment, and best practices to adhere to moving forward.
The easiest way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid exposure—stay in-the-know when it comes to what your city is asking of you, and try to take your walks along the road less traveled, so to speak. A bit of caution, and you may very well have saved yourself an enormous amount of trouble.