Can pets contract, transmit COVID-19? Vet answers FAQ

A veterinarian is answering questions such as whether pets can carry coronavirus on their fur.
After a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, veterinarians across the country were overwhelmed with calls and concerns from pet owners.

The 4-year-old tiger likely caught the virus from a zookeeper.

RELATED: Los Angeles Zoo responds to first known COVID-19 case in tiger in U.S.

But Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says that doesn't necessarily mean your own house cat or dog is at risk.

"There's a big difference between large cats and domestic cats," Howe said. "They're not the same species. They might share some viruses together but not all of them. And so at this point there is not a single dog or cat in America that has gotten COVID-19."

Dr. Howe says it's not just interspecies transmission that people are concerned about. There are also worries that petting or touching animal fur could potentially transfer the virus. That also is unlikely, he said.

"Pet hair is very porous and it tends to trap viruses in it. So it's very difficult to spread a virus on the hair coat of a dog or a cat, unlike the smooth surface of a doorknob or a countertop."

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Still, there has been little scientific research made available on coronavirus and animals.

That's why Dr. Howe says if you're sick, it's still best to distance yourself from your pets, as well as other people of course.

"I would recommend to be safe that somebody else take care of the pet for them in the family if that's an option. And when they are around the pet, wear a mask, don't kiss them in the face, don't overly hug them."

More information about pets and the coronavirus is available online from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
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