Photo credit: JC Gellidon from unspash.com

We are all doing our part to help others stay healthy – but does that include others’ companion animals as well? In these jarring quarantine times, social distancing and isolation can really make one go a bit stir-crazy. Those of us with companion animals are quite lucky. Our little friends are delighted that suddenly their humans don’t have to come and go all the time, leaving them for hours to go to their mysterious outside-world jobs.  In return, we get to revel in their sweet affections and adorable antics.  Of course, we can cuddle on the couch while we read or Skype our friends, but they only have us. [BTW, if we only have one dog or cat, we might want to consider adopting another now that we realize how important companionship is. For me, as much as I love animals, I would not want to be the only one of my own species forever.]

When Covid first started making headlines, the general consensus was that cats and dogs could not contract COVID-19. But later, the first American case of a companion pet diagnosed with COVID-19 was discovered.

A sweet pug in North Carolina, Winston, was living with his four-person family, three of whom contracted the virus as well.  A story appeared on www.wbur.com that said, “One may assume Winston got sick because pugs are known for having respiratory issues due to their short snouts, but Winston’s family also owns another pug and a cat — who both tested negative.”  

Then, according to the same source, two companion cats who had been living with a Covid-19 positive human also became Covid-19 positive. 

After that, eight tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo also tested Covid-19 positive.  Their zookeeper was Covid-19 positive! 

The question that’s still unanswered is whether humans  can get the virus from Covid-19 positive companion animals.

According to a CNN report,  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, said in a press briefing last week that “there is no evidence whatsoever that we’ve seen, from an epidemiological standpoint, that pets can be transmitters within the household.”

Currently, the CDC reports here

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/pets.html :

CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.

Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations.

Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

In a CNN article, William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, said that it is extremely rare for a virus to jump from an animal to a human.” However, Schaffner also asserted that “it would be a good idea for people who are sick to social distance themselves from their pets, as well as their family members.” This is tragic news for anyone with companion animals, but loving them means keeping them safe.

And, what about wild animals?  The CDC website states, “Because wildlife can carry other diseases, even without looking sick, it is always important to enjoy wildlife from a distance.”  Because of the chance of transmission between wildlife and humans, and the fact that still so little is known, we should be avoiding contact with animals in nature, not only are we protecting ourselves, but we are protecting them as well.  

Show your love for your companion animals and wildlife by securing their health – everyday!

By the way, CNN ends their article with this uplifting note: “Winston is also doing well. He is getting lots of walks, and enjoying following his family around the house to keep an eye on what they’re doing.”

Here are some websites to visit for more information.