How you can protect your furry family from COVID-19

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You can protect yourself and your furry family during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by remembering these important facts and following some routine safety guidelines.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses affect people, while others affect animals. And while there are some animal strands of coronaviruses that can be spread to people, this is rare.

The COVID-19 strain spreads mostly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking. Studies have shown that people who are infected but do not have symptoms play a large role in the spread of COVID-19.

Initially, infections were linked to a live animal market in China. But on April 22, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in two pet cats. These are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

The cats live in two separate areas of New York state. Both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in very few animals worldwide, mostly in those that had close contact with a person with COVID-19.

At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. Should other animals be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, USDA will post the findings. State animal health and public health officials will take the lead in making determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.

“At this time, the risk to domesticated animals in the United States is felt to be low,” said Lori Grooms, director of infection prevention for OSF HealthCare.

Practice pet safety

Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected.

Until we know more, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
  • If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

Social distancing and good hygiene

If you’re taking your pet for a walk, it’s a good idea not to let friends or neighbors pet them, as germs could be transferred from their hands to your pet’s fur.

“If your pet is a member of your family, they should also be social distancing,” Lori said.

Because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.

  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste or supplies.
  • Keep your pet’s vaccines and wellness checks up to date.
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
  • Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

For more information, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.

Last Updated: February 12, 2022

About Author: David Pruitt

David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelor’s of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014.

An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.

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Categories: COVID-19, Kids & Family