Army Veterinary Services (VS) is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and planning for all animal health and food defense contingencies. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available.
At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to humans.
The National Veterinary Services of Hong Kong reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) evidence that two dogs and one cat have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, following close exposure to owners who were sick with COVID-19. The cat and dogs showed no clinical signs of the disease. The Veterinary Services of Belgium reported to the OIE that a cat belonging to an owner positive for SARS-CoV-2 had also tested positive for the virus. The cat was showing signs of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease. While infection is suspected, it has not yet been confirmed. In early April, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is the first case of an animal testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. and public health officials presume this large cat became mildly sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. On 22 April 2020, the USDA and CDC reported two cats from the state of New York tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after close contact with owners who were sick with or showing symptoms of COVID-19. In all these cases, it is believed that the virus was transmitted from a human to the animals.
This is a rapidly evolving situation. At this time, multiple human and animal health agencies agree on the following:
- There is no evidence at this time that companion animals, including pets, can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
- The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission.
- There is no evidence to support restrictions to movement of healthy pets, or taking measures against animals which may compromise their welfare. Routine COVID-19 testing is not indicated for companion animals at this time.
- At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. Animal testing should be reserved for circumstances in which the animals have signs of disease and results may affect the treatment or management of people and animals. Testing should be done in coordination with local and state veterinary or public health officials.
Always Practice Routine Hygiene When Handling or Caring for Animals
There is no evidence that companion or other animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. However, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented when handling and caring for animals because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (i.e. zoonotic diseases).
If you are NOT SICK with COVID-19:
- Do not allow your cat to roam freely outside the home to decrease exposure of your cat to other people or cats. This can also protect your cat from injury or exposure to standard feline infectious diseases.
- Use a leash when walking your dog and institute physical distancing (i.e. 6 feet) between you and other dog walkers and their dogs.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather
- Wash your hands before and after being around or handling animals, their food, supplies or waste. Solid waste should be picked up using a disposable glove or plastic bag as soon as possible and placed in a sealed trash bin immediately.
- Avoid kissing, being licked by, or sharing food with animals.
If you are SICK with COVID-19 or feel unwell:
- Tell your medical provider if you have pets in your home.
- Incorporate social distancing and restrict your interactions with your pets, just like you would around other people especially if you have symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). If you are isolated from your family, you should be isolated from your pet(s) too.
- Avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, sharing bedding, or sleeping in the same location as your pets.
- Designate a healthy household member to care for pets (including service animals) in the home. If this is not possible, then the individual providing care should wash their hands before and after caring for pets, and wear a cloth face covering while interacting with them. Solid waste should be picked up using a disposable glove or plastic bag as soon as possible and placed in a sealed trash bin immediately. Follow these precautions until you are medically cleared to return to normal activities.
- If your pet becomes ill, call your veterinarian. Dog and cats can develop respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms due to a lot of other common canine and feline infectious diseases or medical conditions and COVID-19 may not be the only thing to consider.
- Have an emergency pet care plan in place in the event that you are hospitalized. Consider having family, friends, or a local boarding facility provide care to your pets. There is no need to abandon your pet or relinquish them to a shelter if you have COVID-19.
Guidance for Public Health Professionals
In addition to the above information, the following interim guidance is for public health professionals managing the home care and isolation of people with COVID-19 who have pets or other animals (including service or working animals) in the same home. The intent of this guidance is to facilitate preparedness and establish practices that can help people and animals stay safe and healthy.
At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals. States may have their own specific requirements for these circumstances; this military guidance provides recommendations for a conservative approach due to the unknown risks to pets and other animals. Guidance is based on the limited available data and general recommendations for zoonotic disease infection prevention and control. Routine COVID-19 testing is not indicated for companion animals at this time. This is a rapidly evolving situation. Guidance will be updated as new information becomes available.
- Service animals should be permitted to remain with their handlers.
- Using the One Health approach, Public Health (PH), Preventive Medicine (PM), and Veterinary Services (VS) should work together to share information. This includes, but is not limited to, conducting an informed risk assessment when a person with COVID-19 reports being in contact with companion or other animals. Depending on the scenario, management of the human patient as well as the pet involved may require significant collaboration among military, local, state, and other Federal veterinary and public health authorities.
- When a military public health professional is notified of an animal in the home of a person with COVID-19, coordination should occur between the military public health professional and installation veterinarian (and/or local supporting veterinarian) as necessary. Although routine testing in animals is not recommended except in specific circumstances, assessment of the epidemiological risk factors and clinical features can help guide decisions regarding testing.
In addition to other prevention measures, people with COVID-19 and in-home isolation should be advised to restrict interaction with household animals. Specifically, while a person infected with COVID-19 is
symptomatic, they should maintain separation from household animals
as they would with other household members, and avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sleeping in the same location, sharing bedding, or sharing food. In accordance with the
Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals should be permitted to remain with their handlers. If possible, a household member should be designated to care for pets in the home and should follow standard handwashing practices before and after interacting with the household animal. If a person with COVID-19 must care for pets, they should wear a face covering and wash their hands before and after caring for pets.
Care for household animals that are sick or injured should be coordinated with the household's local veterinarian. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the household animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. If an owner is sick with COVID-19, a family member or friend from outside the household may bring the animal to a veterinary hospital or clinic. Telemedicine may also be appropriate to provide consultation with a veterinarian if the owner is a COVID-19 case and is unable to find an alternative caretaker to bring the pet to the hospital. Veterinarians that see animals that have a new, concerning illness and reside with a person with COVID-19 should contact their
state public health veterinarian.
In some instances, household animals may require alternative care or re-homing if the owner is unable to care for the animal or has surrendered the animal. A home receiving a new household animal should follow
standard handwashing practices before and after interacting with the animal. Shelters receiving household animals should ensure they review and adhere to their established biosafety and biosecurity practices for infectious diseases.
Suggested Communications with Community Veterinarians
- At this time there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals.
- The CDC has provided new guidance specifically for
veterinarians and veterinary staff regarding COVID-19.
- Veterinarians and their staff should review and adhere to their biosafety and biosecurity protocols for infectious diseases to ensure the safety of their patients.
- Veterinarians and their staff should review the concepts in
NASPHV Compendium of Veterinary Standard Precautions for Zoonotic Disease Prevention in Veterinary Personnel. This document outlines routine infection prevention practices designed to minimize transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animals to veterinary personnel.
- These infection prevention and control guidelines should be consistently implemented in veterinary hospitals, regardless of ongoing outbreaks of infectious diseases, but are especially important during an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease such as COVID-19.
- Contact your state public health veterinarian if you are seeing a new, concerning illness in an animal that has had close contact with a person with COVID-19. Military VCOs must consult with their supporting clinical consultant in addition to contacting their state public health vet.
CDC's up-to-date information on COVID-19:
CDC Healthy Pets, Healthy People Website