COVID-19 and Animals: What You Need to Know

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we’ve learned a lot about how the virus that causes COVID-19 can affect animals. Animals around the world have been infected with the virus, including pets (cats, dogs, ferrets), captive animals in zoos and aquariums (big cats, gorillas, otters, a coatimundi, a fishing cat, hyenas), farmed animals (mink), and wild animals (white-tailed deer). Although the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, pet owners can spread the virus to their pets. Read below to learn how to protect your pets.

Most pets get infected through close contact with a person

A cat being rubbed by its owner

More than 200 pets (cats, dogs, and a ferret) are known to have been infected in the United States, but the number is likely much higher. We know that most pets become infected after close contact with an owner or another household member with COVID-19. Close contact can mean petting, licking, kissing, snuggling, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed.

How to protect your pets

Avoid contact with pets and other animals if you have COVID-19, just like you would with people.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you have COVID-19.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wear a well-fitting mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

What to do if you think your pet has COVID-19

Pets infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 may or may not get sick. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets is extremely rare but has happened. Pets with the virus may have fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, lack of energy, sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge, vomiting, or diarrhea

If your pet is sick and you think it might be from COVID-19, talk to your veterinarian.