What You Need to Know About Pets & COVID-19

Posted on by Casey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM, Director, One Health Office, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

May 3 to 9, 2020, is National Pet Week.

With recent news of tigers, lions, and pet cats in the US testing positive for the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), you may be wondering about the risks to your pets. We’re still learning about this virus and how it might affect animals, including pets, but there are simple ways to protect your pet from possible infection. It’s important to know how to protect both people and pets during this pandemic.

Coronaviruses & animals

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many types of animals, including camels, cattle, and bats. Household pets like cats and dogs commonly get some types of coronavirus infections too. You may have even heard of a condition that can be caused by one: kennel cough, a common illness in dogs. However, most coronaviruses are specific to the animals they infect – they cannot spread to people or even other species of animal (for example, from cat to dog).

Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect humans, and then spread from person-to-person. SARS and MERS are some examples of how coronaviruses can jump from animals to people. This is what we suspect may have happened with the current COVID-19 pandemic, but since this is a new type of virus, we have a lot more to learn.

So far, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available now, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

Should you be worried about your pets?

Pets are an important part of our lives and right now, and we are spending even more time with our pets than ever. It is important to know that a small number of pets worldwide, including dogs and cats, have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. But most of these pets got infected only after close contact with people who had COVID-19, and only a few of these animals got sick from the infection. We are still learning about this new virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.

This might sound alarming, but the good news is that there are ways to include your pets in your day-to-day activities to prevent COVID-19. You should treat pets like your other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.

  • Don’t let your pets interact with people or other animals outside your household.
  • Keep cats indoors as much as possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk your dog, but always on a leash at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
  • Don’t go to dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

What to do if you or your pet get sick

If you get sick with COVID-19, you can protect your pet from infection by restricting contact with them and other animals, just like you would with people. This means no petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, or sharing food or bedding with your pet.

If you can, have another member of your household care for your pet while you are sick. If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

If you are sick with COVID-19 and your pet gets sick, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your veterinarian and let them know you’ve been sick with COVID-19. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets.

How to stay healthy around animals

It’s important to remember that all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, so CDC recommends some simple steps to stay healthy around any animal, including pets:

  • Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
  • Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

Information on this outbreak will continue to be updated as we learn more. The best way to protect yourself and your pets is to stay informed.

For more information on pets and COVID-19, visit the If You Have Animals page on the COVID-19 website.

For more information on keeping pets and people healthy, visit Healthy Pets, Healthy People.


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Posted on by Casey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM, Director, One Health Office, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious DiseasesTags , , , , , , ,

One comment on “What You Need to Know About Pets & COVID-19”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I am very glad to see that pets and other animals have not been left out when it comes to monitoring for COVID-19 virus. The information posted on this blog is a great resource on how to deal with sick pets and how to protect people and pets from each other if becoming sick with COVID-19. As a nurse, it is important to use good handwashing and following recommendations to help in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. We all must do our part to protect ourselves and each other.

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Page last reviewed: June 1, 2020
Page last updated: June 1, 2020