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Should I Have Contact with My Pet if I Have the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

Reviewed on 3/24/2020

Ask the Doctor

I have a dog at home and am wondering if it’s possible to transmit the coronavirus from a human to a dog? If so, what kinds of precautions do I need to take to protect him?

Doctor's Response

We’re still studying and trying to understand the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. There are several types of coronaviruses that can infect animals, which can transmit the virus to humans, and then transmit between humans, but this is rare. 

With the outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), these coronaviruses originated in animals and spread to people. 

We believe this is what happened with the recent COVID-19 outbreak, but the source is still unknown. The first COVID-19 infections were traced to a live animal market and then started spreading from person to person. 

However, we currently do not have any evidence proving that companion animals or pets such as dogs are a source of infection in the United States. There are also no reports of any pets becoming sick with COVID-19.

How to Protect Your Pets if You Have Coronavirus (COVID-19)

While there are no reports of pets becoming infected with coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s best to use caution if you are sick and have pets at home. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that you limit contact with your pets until more is known about the virus.

Some general tips on keeping your pets safe from coronavirus (COVID-19) include avoiding the following:

  • Petting
  • Holding or snuggling your pet
  • Kissing or receiving licks from your pet
  • Sharing food

If you are unwell, it may be best to have someone else care for your pet until you feel better. If you’re around your pet while you are sick, be sure to wash your hands before and after handling them. 

Good hygiene is always the best way to keep you and your pets safe.

Facts You Should Know About Coronavirus

  • Coronaviruses are very common. Most coronaviruses that infect humans cause mild symptoms like a common cold and go away on their own. Very few may cause severe disease such as viral pneumonia that may lead to death.
  • Coronaviruses spread easily from person to person by inhalation of respiratory secretions or by contact of respiratory secretions with the eyes, nose, or mouth. Rarely, fecal contamination can transmit COVID-19.
  • Frequent cleansing of hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers and avoiding crowds can help prevent infection with coronavirus, influenza, and many other upper respiratory infections. Experts also recommend that people cough or sneeze into their elbow or cover their mouth and nose with a tissue that they can throw away.
  • Coronaviruses also infect animals. Some strains can also infect humans or evolve the ability to spread to humans.
  • There are 7 known coronaviruses that infect people, including the newly discovered 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV, also known as Wuhan coronavirus), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
  • MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) made the news in recent years because they evolved and have the ability to spread from animals to humans and because they caused deaths.
  • Researchers believe that MERS-CoV spread from camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • Researchers believe that SARS-CoV spread from bats and civet cats in China in 2002.
  • It is believed that an animal source of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19, 2019-nCoV) first infected humans at a market that sells live animals for food in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in 2019.

How Contagious Is Coronavirus?

  • Most coronaviruses are as contagious as common cold viruses or influenza virus (the flu virus). In other words, they can be very contagious from person to person but not as contagious as measles
  • For example, direct contact of hands with secretions or breathing within 3 feet of a cough or sneeze is required, not simply walking by a sick person. 
  • People with SARS should avoid public places for 10 days after illness. It is not clear for how long MERS is contagious, but it is likely similar. 
  • Most close contacts of people with MERS have not become ill. The Wuhan coronavirus seems more contagious than SARS or MERS.

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Reviewed on 3/24/2020
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Lin, X-D, et al. "Extensive diversity of coronaviruses in bats from China." Virology 507 (2017): 1-10.

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