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Two house cats in New York state recently tested positive for coronavirus -- the first known cases in the U.S. -- prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update its guidance on pets.
The CDC says the cats likely contracted the virus from their owners or people in the neighborhood.
“We don’t want people to panic," Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, said. "We don’t want people to be afraid of pets."
But the news is worth a deeper look into the issue since we all want what's best for our pets and families.
(The cats have mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to make full recoveries, by the way).
Can my dog or cat give me the virus?
“At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC says on its website, adding that while experts are still learning about the novel virus, the risk is “considered to be low.”
The CDC says the small number of pets that have tested positive mostly had contact with an infected person and notes that pets have separate canine and feline coronaviruses that can make them sick. (Those viruses don’t infect people and aren’t related to the current COVID-19 outbreak).
Can I give my pet the virus?
The CDC says while experts don’t know for sure which animals can be infected with the virus, it is “aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats,” including some lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo, who tested positive.
Still, the virus seems to mainly be spread from person to person and thousands of dogs and cats in more than a dozen countries have all tested negative for the virus, Market Watch reported.
Should I have my pet tested?
The CDC doesn’t recommend testing pets unless advised by a veterinarian.
I know the virus can spread from touching a surface touched by an infected person. Could it be contracted by touching a pet handled by someone with the virus?
“There is no evidence that viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets,” the CDC says but advises that pets can generally carry germs on their dander so washing your hands is always recommended.
Do I have to stay away from my pet if I get the virus?
If you contract the virus it’s best to have little to no contact with your pet to be safe, Dr. John Howe, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Market Watch.
“Better yet, see if you can have a friend or neighbor who could take your pet out of the household,” Howe said.
If you live alone and have to take care of your pet yourself, wear a mask and wash your hands, the CDC recommends.
Should my pet wear a mask?
Howe tells Market Watch that’s a “total waste of money” since the virus mainly spreads from person to person.
Should I still walk my dog?
Walking your dog is important for both of you but dogs should be kept on their leash and you should both stay at least six feet away from other pets and people, The CDC recommends.
What if my pet gets sick potentially with COVID-19 or something else? Can I go to the vet?
The CDC says if your pet has symptoms and had contact with someone who has the virus, don’t go to the vet. Call them first.
“Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets,” the CDC notes. “Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care.”
Veterinary clinics are still open if your pet is sick with something else, although many are only taking emergency cases, Market Watch reports.
“Animals are still getting sick, and vets are still seeing animals every day,” Howe said. He also recommends calling first.
“If an animal gets sick, you can probably be 99.99 percent sure it will be anything but coronavirus,” Howe told Market Watch.