SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) FAQ for Pet Parents
Dogs and Coronavirus: An Interview with Dr. Beck
As ready as we all are to put the pandemic behind us, we’re not quite out of the woods yet.
For more than a year, our news feeds have been saturated with stories about COVID-19. We’ve learned what to do and what not to do to take care of ourselves and each other… but what about our pets? Are they at risk, too?
We sat down with our founder and resident veterinarian, Dr. Beck, to get her take on all things dogs and COVID-19.
Q: Can my dog get COVID-19?
A: If a dog is in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, the virus could, technically, be transmitted. However, it’s important to note that dogs are not easily infected, and that transmission requires close contact.
If someone in your household becomes ill, that individual should isolate themselves from everyone; unfortunately, this also includes pets.
Your pet will follow the same protocols as the human members of your household. In the case of a positive test, for example, everyone—dog(s) included—should refrain from socializing until it is safe to do so.
Q: Can I get my pet tested for COVID-19?
A: Most animal diagnostic laboratories are not set up to test for this specific coronavirus. Routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not currently recommended.
Q: What are the clinical signs of COVID-19 in dogs?
A: Although most dogs that have contracted the virus are asymptomatic, they may present with:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Discharge from nose or eyes
It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by many things other than COVID-19. If you’re worried, call your vet—they’ll guide you on what to do.
Q: My pet seems to be displaying symptoms of COVID-19. What should I do?
A: First things first: don’t panic. Most dogs that develop respiratory illnesses are more likely to be infected with a canine respiratory virus or bacteria than the COVID-19 coronavirus. Canine viruses and bacteria are actually quite common and don’t have risks associated with human transmission.
Regardless of the root cause, if your dog is exhibiting respiratory symptoms you should keep them away from other animals (no doggy daycare, no off-leash parks) to minimize the chance of spread. If your dog is having difficulties breathing, they should be seen by a vet.
Q: How do I keep my dog safe if I test positive for COVID-19?
A: Whenever possible, it’s best for dogs to remain in their homes because it’s an environment they’re familiar with and feel comfortable in. However, if you’re someone who lives alone and you contract the virus (or the other members of your household also test positive), you may want to make arrangements with someone your dog is well-acquainted with to step in until you’ve recovered.
In cases where you must care for your own dog (if you have a service dog, for example), there are some general rules to keep in mind:
- Wear a cloth face covering when interacting with them;
- Wash your hands before and after contact; and
- Don’t share food, kisses, or hugs. This one’s a heartbreaker, but thankfully it’s not forever!
I always advise pet parents to have a care plan in place in case they become ill and aren’t able to properly care for their pets. This is applicable outside of the pandemic, but it’s especially relevant now.
There are three parts to a care plan: be proactive, be prepared, and be properly identified.
- Identify person(s) or boarding facilities that can take good care of your dog in case of illness or emergency
- Put together a list of people authorized to make medical decisions for your dog. Make sure everyone on that list has your veterinarian’s contact information, and that your vet has also been made aware of your approval.
- Put together an emergency preparedness kit for your dog, including:
- A two-week supply of food
- A two-week supply of medications with dosing instructions
- Copies of updated vaccine certificates
- A list of allergies and/or medical conditions
- A crate or travel carrier
- An extra leash and poop bags
- Contact information for your veterinarian
BE PROPERLY IDENTIFIED
- Make sure your dog(s) have up-to-date information, including:
- +/- Microchip
- +/- Tattoo
- ID tag
- Rabies tag
- License tag
Dr. Christine Beck is a Registered Veterinarian (DVM) and has been in the animal industry for more than two decades. However, the information contained herein should not be construed as official medical or other advice.