*This article was updated by Dr. Greer on 5/4/20 and again on 4/15/21 to include new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The news is filled with breaking stories about the spread of a coronavirus, dubbed nCoV-2019, or COVID-19. This is a scary disease, and recent news reports have led to many questions from pet owners and travelers alike.
COVID-19 in pets is rare. There have been a few cases of dogs and cats in the U.S. that have tested positive for COVID-19, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of those pets had close contact with people with COVID-19. However, according to the CDC at this time, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
We know dogs, cats, and some other mammals have their own versions of coronavirus, including both those that cause GI syndromes (vomiting and diarrhea, mostly in very young puppies and kittens) and upper respiratory syndromes. There are two forms of coronavirus in cats, the enteric form, and the FIP form – both wet and dry. FIP and enteric coronavirus in cats also do not appear to be related to the current outbreak in humans. The two diseases cannot be easily distinguished between. The disease is named “coronavirus” as the virus appears to be crown-like in electron microscope images.
The current outbreak has not changed our recommendations for vaccinating our pets. In general, we do not recommend vaccinating all of our dogs or cats for coronavirus. Some breeding females may be vaccinated against coronavirus, the intestinal form, to protect her pups. In high-risk cats, we may recommend vaccinating for FIP, the feline form of coronavirus. The current coronavirus vaccination for dogs and cats will not protect you or your pet from the COVID-19 outbreak.
What you need to know about coronavirus/COVID-19:
1. Dogs, cats, and some other mammals have their own versions of coronavirus which is different from the human version.
2. At this time, there are human COVID-19 vaccines available. Animal coronavirus vaccines are not approved for use in humans. The animal coronaviruses are slightly different than human coronaviruses.
3. Even as the percentage of people vaccinated continues to rise, the CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. In addition, the CDC recommends avoiding contact with infected people and social distancing of at least six feet, to reduce the risk of disease and spreading it. Using soap and water, avoiding rubbing your face, and other personal hygiene skills will also reduce your risk.
4. The CDC recommends treating pets as you would other human family members and do not let pets interact with people or animals outside of your household. If a person in your house becomes sick with COVID-19, isolate that person from everyone, including pets.