Questions and answers about COVID-19 in animals

We have summarized for you the most urgent questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus in relation to pets. Basically, follow the current recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to protect health from COVID-19.

If you are a pet owner infected with the coronavirus

I have been infected with the coronavirus. What should I do with my pets?

People infected with SARS-CoV-2 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for them. If they have to look after their pets themselves, they should follow good hygiene measures and wear a face mask when handling their pet. If you keep your pet in your home, avoid direct contact with your pet such as kissing and hugging. We recommend washing and disinfecting hands thoroughly both before and after contact. Do not allow pets in the bathroom, kitchen or on the bed and couch.

Can I walk my dog if I am infected with the coronavirus?

No, in this case strict home quarantine applies. If you have a dog that you normally walk on a leash, you may only walk it in your own enclosed garden that is not used by others. If this is not possible, your pet must be taken into care by Corona negative people.

Can my cat still go outside if I am infected with the corona virus?

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep an outdoor cat at home for several days. To avoid your cat carrying particles of infection outside, you can:

I will be looking after the pet of a person infected with the coronavirus - what do I need to do?

If a pet's fur can carry the virus, does that mean I should clean or wipe my pets with bleach/alcohol/chlorine/disinfectant etc.?

No. While it is easy to disinfect a door handle or countertop with disinfectant wipes, alcohol or bleach, all of these things could harm your pet. There is currently no evidence to support additional pet bathing as a result of COVID-19. When bathing your pet, always use a mild shampoo specifically designed for pets and plenty of water to avoid skin problems from shampoos.

Infection of or via pets with the coronavirus?

Can coronavirus infect my pet?

Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence that domestic dogs and cats are a source of COVID-19 infection for humans or other animals - and little evidence that pets are at risk from the virus.

Should I avoid contact between my dog and other dogs?

You can still let your dog play with others. If you have been infected with the coronavirus, you should avoid your dog's contact with other people and dogs.

Should my pet wear a mask?

No. There is no scientific evidence that face masks protect pets from infectious diseases or pollutants in the air. Apart from that, such masks can be unnecessarily frightening or uncomfortable for pets.

Can ready-made pet food contain the COVID-19 virus?

It is impossible for the virus to be passed on through dry or canned food, as it can only survive in the environment for a maximum of 48 hours.

Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for cats and dogs?

There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine for pets.

What should I do if my pet has not had the most important vaccinations due to COVID-19?

Contact your veterinarian who can advise you on the best course of action. While it is important to keep your pet's vaccinations up to date, your veterinarian can help assess the urgency of your situation while keeping the health, safety and well-being of you and your pet in mind.

Should I have my pet tested for COVID-19?

Human and veterinary health organisations agree that there is no evidence to support the need for routine testing of companion animals. Leading organisations such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recommend that veterinarians consult with the relevant health authorities about testing in these cases: Pets with recognisable signs of illness consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection in a pet that has had contact with a COVID-19 infected person. Currently, there is no evidence of an increased risk of virus transmission from exposed pets to humans. As our understanding of the context of virus transmission from exposed dogs and cats increases, our recommendations for routine testing will be adjusted as needed.

Can my dog/cat infect me with the coronavirus?

There is no evidence to date that pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans.

If a Corona positive person sneezes, coughs or carries a pet close to their body, droplets containing the coronavirus can get onto the pet's fur or mucous membranes. The virus can survive outside the human body for up to 48 hours but does NOT multiply on dogs and cats. Thus, the survival time of the virus particles is limited. It is uncertain how long the virus particles can survive in the mucous membrane of pets. Therefore, to be on the safe side, avoid contact with friends' or family's dogs and cats if they have been infected with COVID-19.

What about the reports of COVID-19 positive dogs and cats (even tigers)?

A small number of pets owned by people infected with COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus. In addition, several big cats at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. However, only a few of the animals that tested positive showed symptoms of disease.

SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 in humans is a human virus (human pathogen). The greatest known risk of transmission at this time is between humans and not from humans to pets.

Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, it is recommended that pets be kept away from infected persons and that pets be physically confined from infected persons.

Do pets that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 show similar signs of illness to humans?

In the few confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in domestic dogs and cats, there have been reports of mild respiratory symptoms. All animals are expected to make a full recovery.

Our current knowledge is that cats have similar receptors for SARS-CoV-2 as humans. Comparable to humans, cats may respond differently to virus-related exposure, with some being more susceptible than others. It is therefore recommended to keep pets away from infected persons and to physically confine pets from infected persons.

What about the hygiene and care of my pets (rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, reptiles, birds)?

COVID-19 is a human virus and the biggest risk is transmission between humans.

There is still no evidence that pets (see above) can carry or transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. As a precaution, we recommend keeping pets in a secure enclosure and away from COVID-19 positive humans.

Should I give my pet away to make sure it does not transmit the virus to my family?

No. There is currently no evidence that domestic dogs or cats can be a source of infection for humans or other animals. Pet ownership can have a positive impact on health, emotional and social bonds. Therefore, it is recommended that responsible pet ownership and hygiene measures be followed to keep families and pets together and protected from disease. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is a human virus (human pathogen). The greatest known risk of transmission at this time is from person to person. However, people who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from other people and pets, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Everyone should continue to follow general hygiene rules - especially thorough hand washing before and after handling pets.

Why does the information about COVID-19 keep changing?

COVID-19 is an emerging disease and the situation is constantly changing. We learn more about COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus every day.

Where can I get up-to-date and reliable information?

World Small Animal Veterinary Association: Coronavirus & Companion Animals Advice (Recommendations on the topic of coronavirus and pets)

World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)