Pets Are Testing Positive for Coronavirus

Care instructions for infected animals are similar to the recommended guidelines for humans, including isolation and monitoring of symptoms.

Care instructions for infected animals are similar to the recommended guidelines for humans, including isolation and monitoring of symptoms. Shutterstock

 

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A dog in Louisiana is the eighth pet in the United States to test positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. It's unlikely that animals can transmit the virus to people, according to the CDC—but they can catch it from their owners.

A dog in Louisiana this week tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the eighth pet in the United States to fall ill with the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans.

“Initially, it was believed pets could not get the disease,” Mike Strain, Louisiana’s commissioner of agriculture and forestry, said in a statement announcing the positive test result. “But the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now learning that animals can be infected.”

Citing privacy laws, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry declined to release the name of the dog or its owner, or any information about where they live.

Only a handful of animals have tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 since the virus was first confirmed in the United States. Reported cases include four dogs (a pug in North Carolina, a German shepherd in New York, a Yorkie in Texas and a shepherd mix in South Carolina) and three cats (two in different parts of New York and one in Minnesota). Five tigers and three lions in New York City at the Bronx Zoo have also tested positive, along with a handful of pets in other countries.

Every infected animal either had mild symptoms that could be treated at home, or showed no symptoms at all, according to the CDC. The risk of pets spreading Covid-19 to humans is low, and it’s likely that pets with confirmed cases of the virus caught it from their caretakers.

“A small number of pets (cats and dogs) have been confirmed to be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19, mostly after close contact with a person with Covid-19,” the agency says on its website. “None of the pets have died … There is no reason to abandon or surrender pets that have been confirmed positive for the virus that causes Covid-19.”

Testing is available for most types of pets but is recommended only for animals that have Covid-19 symptoms—including fever, difficulty breathing, eye discharge and lethargy—and have also been exposed to a human with a confirmed case of the virus. 

Care instructions for pets that test positive are similar to the guidelines recommended for humans, including quarantining in a separate area of the house and limiting contact with other people. Animals can resume their regular activities when subsequent tests are negative.

No special bathing or disinfecting is necessary, according to the CDC. The agency’s website specifically cautions against wiping or bathing pets “with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or any other products not approved for animal use.” 

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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