A few days ago, the Hong Kong government announced that the pets of people infected with the coronavirus must be quarantined as well as their owners. This may come as a surprise to those who might not at first realize that humans can infect pets with contagious diseases and vice versa. While quarantining animals is certainly a good precautionary measure, it does beg the question: can pets get infected?

One Positive COVID-19 Test

USA Today reports that one person infected with the coronavirus had a pet dog who also tested positive for COVID-19. While it was only a “weak positive,” authorities quarantined the dog to be on the safe side. This might make it seem like pets can, in fact, become infected with the coronavirus, but the facts are a little more complicated than that.

There is the possibility that the dog merely tested positive because of environmental factors. After all, the dog breathed the same air as their infected owner at home. This could lead to a false positive simply because these particles made their way into the dog’s body. Actual infection is different from showing positive signs of contact with the virus.

So far, the dog shows none of the symptoms that appeared in their owner. The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department also confirmed that there is no evidence to believe humans can infect their pets and that pets can pose a risk to people. The CDC also confirms that there is currently no evidence that pets can spread the virus.

That said, it is believed that COVID-19 spread to humans through an animal, but no one knows for sure what kind of animal is to blame. One prime suspect has been the seafood market. However, the Los Angeles Times says some bats in Wuhan, China show the closest match to the coronavirus that has been found in humans. 

Potential Risk Factors for COVID-19

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association has since weighed in on the matter. It, too, confirms that at least where dogs and cats are concerned, there is no reason to view pets as a possible threat. The association also reminds pet owners that sometimes viruses can infect a species but cause no illness and is not contagious. This might be one possible explanation for the case of the dog that tested positive.

Even so, the association points out that dogs coming into contact with people who are sick with COVID-19 could become a risk to their owners. People who are already sick with the virus should stay clear of their pets as much as possible. It might also be a good time for pet owners to reconsider some of the public parks they often frequent with pets.

How To Stay Safe From The Coronavirus

Several studies have shown that Americans, particularly American men, do not wash their hands nearly enough. CDC reports that only 31% of men wash their hands even after using a public restroom, while the figure stands at 65% for women. This is extremely gross even to think about, but when it comes to the coronavirus, it can literally mean life or death. The number one piece of advice health officials all around the world are giving to prevent the virus is for people to wash their hands properly and regularly.

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association says this is especially important after interacting with pets. Like the dog in Hong Kong shows, even when pets do not become infected, they may still have trace amounts of the virus present if they have spent a lot of time around someone who is infected. The association recommends washing hands not just to prevent COVID-19, but to prevent salmonella and E.coli. To reduce the potential for exposure, consider keeping your pets indoors whenever possible as well.

It is worth keeping in mind that there’s currently no vaccine for the virus and no known effective treatment. This is definitely one of those instances where prevention is better than cure. Here are some additional tips from the CDC:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are infected with COVID-19.
  2. If you are sick, remain at home to prevent the likelihood of spreading the virus.
  3. When you cough or sneeze, use tissue and throw that in the trash; do not reuse.
  4. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes unless you have just washed your hands.
  5. Wash your hands before eating or touching your face and after sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose or using the restroom.
  6. When washing your hands, use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  7. If there is no soap and water available, use a solution that is 60% alcohol.

If you are already on top of your hygiene game, then these things already form commonplace routines in your household. If not, now is the time to change that. You might also notice the similarities with preventing the flu and common colds, which are, ironically enough, often caused by more minor forms of the coronavirus.

If you suspect that you have symptoms of COVID-19, consult your doctor. Then, speak with everyone who handles your pet to get advice on continued services. This includes your groomer, your pet’s vet and your trusted pet sitters at Dog Gon’ Good Time.