It’s safe to say that the coronavirus has been on everyone’s minds this past year. While we’re still learning a lot about the virus and how it affects people, pet owners like you also want to know whether COVID can pose a risk to your furry family members. Here’s what we know about how COVID-19 affects pets and what you can and should do to protect them.


While the rate of infection seems very low, there have been cases of pets contracting the virus. Typically, this happens after close contact with a person carrying the virus. Research has also shown that it’s more likely for certain species of pets (namely cats and hamsters) to transfer it to others of the same species. Dogs can also spread it to other dogs, but it does not happen as frequently. We don’t yet know whether they can transfer it to different types of animals, such as from cats to dogs.

Like humans, not all animals infected with COVID-19 show symptoms. Cases where pets did become sick have been mild enough to be treated at home. At this time, no pets have died from a COVID infection.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 in pets can include:

    • Fever
    • Coughing
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Lethargy (unusual laziness or sluggishness)
    • Sneezing
    • Runny nose
    • Eye discharge
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea



So far, cases of COVID-19 have appeared in dogs and cats, as well as a few other mammals. The first case of an animal testing positive in the U.S. was a tiger in a New York zoo. So far, the virus doesn’t seem to affect non-mammals, and not all mammals appear to be vulnerable to it. Regardless, it’s a good idea for those infected with COVID to stay away from any pet until they’ve recovered and aren’t contagious.


While it may be possible for a pet to pass the virus to a person, the risk of being infected this way is very low. Pets have not played much of a role in spreading the infection. You’re much more likely to be infected by another person than by a sick pet. Still, if you know an animal is infected, it’s important to take basic precautions, such as washing your hands, limiting contact when possible, and avoiding the sick pet’s nose and mouth.


Practicing good social distancing is just as vital for your pet as it is for you. The more you can limit their exposure to animals and people outside your household, the safer your pet will be. Avoid bringing your pet out to public places such as dog parks, stores, and other areas with large groups of people. If you’ve been in a public place or interacting with others, make sure you wash your hands and follow other safety practices before interacting with your pet.


If you think your pet may have the virus, the first thing to do is contact your vet. Make sure you state clearly that you think your pet may be infected so that the vet can take precautions to ensure the safety of your pet and others. They will give your pet a test to see if they are positive for COVID-19.

If a test comes back positive, listen carefully to your vet’s instructions. They will explain how to safely deal with any symptoms to help your pet recover and minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Be sure to let the vet know if your pet has difficulty breathing or their symptoms get worse.

If you have multiple pets in your home, keep the sick pet in a separate part of the house with their own food, water, and litter box (if needed). Wash any blankets, towels, and bed covers your pet uses, and clean their dishes with an EPA-registered disinfectant, rinsing thoroughly. Be sure to keep them separated for the full quarantine; remember that your pet could still carry the virus even if their symptoms appear better.

The steps you take to care for your pet will vary for dogs and cats. Here are some suggestions to protect your pet and others.



If your cat tests positive, keep them indoors as much as possible, whether they have the virus or not. Do not let a sick cat outside for any reason. If you cannot isolate your sick pet to a section of the house, consider asking a friend or relative to look after your healthy animals until your pet recovers.

Always wear gloves when cleaning your pet’s litterbox and wash your hands immediately after. You can dispose of any waste normally, without extra disinfecting.


If you have a backyard for your dog to relieve themselves, don’t take them on walks. If you must take them out, limit time outside to bathroom breaks only. Stay near your home and keep at least six feet away from people and other pets. Avoid interacting with other pets completely while on these short breaks.

Dealing with COVID-19 can be stressful for pet owners, but knowing the safest course of action will help keep you and your pets safe. Having a reliable veterinary team on your side will also help you feel more confident about your pet’s safety and care. At Essington Road Animal Hospital, Dr. Adam M. Abou-Youssef can provide your pets with the quality care they need. Our team takes extra steps to keep you and your pet safe during these uncertain times. Contact our Joliet vet hospital today to get the support you need to protect your pet’s health.

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