Coronavirus and Pets: It’s Safe to Keep Your Dog

There’s a lot of fear swirling around the novel coronavirus – what it might do to us, and what it might do to our pets. My heart broke when I heard about dogs being abandoned or killed in parts of China. Then panicked friends started texting me about a dog testing “weak positive” for COVID-19 in Hong Kong.

So can our pets contract COVID-19? Can they give it to us?

“Whenever fear spreads, so, unfortunately, does misinformation,” says Robin Ganzert, Ph.D., president and CEO of the nonprofit American Humane.  “There is no evidence that companion animals, like dogs and cats, can transmit COVID-19 to humans. Many of these misguided fears grew out of report that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19 but was not infected with the virus. This was a case of human-to-animal transmission and means that dogs can carry low levels of the virus but don’t become sick or transmit it.”

Dr. Ganzert says pet owners should carry on as normally as possible. We can continue to take our dogs for walks outside but might wish to keep the recommended three to six feet away from other people, and avoid unnecessary interactions with groups of people.

No one should surrender pets to a shelter due to the pandemic.

“We need people to treat their pets, as always, with kindness and compassion,” she says. “They are not a threat to you or your family. If anything, pets may pick up on our anxiety and so we should be extra loving to them during these difficult times.”

For people considering self-quarantining at home, Dr. Ganzert suggests the following:

  • Stock up on necessities to last two to three weeks, including pet food and medications.
  • Wash your hands after playing with your cat or dog.
  • Stay up to date on the latest advisories and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and your state and local public health department.
  • Don’t abandon your companion animals.

Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, agreed that pets should stay at home with the people who love them – for their good, and our own.

“We really want to assure people with pets that their relationships with their dogs and cats should remain unchanged and it’s not only safe to keep them in the home, but also beneficial, as they can serve as a source of comfort during a crisis,” she said. “The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing.”

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Award-winning journalist Jen Reeder is immediate past president of the Dog Writers Association of America.