Coronavirus may also spread to animals, say veterinarians

Veterinarians have sampled pets and have determined that they can get infected with COVID-19. Photo illustration by Emileé Edwards | Photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

COVID-19 can be spread from person to person, and it can also reach pets. The virus that causes COVID-19 can infect pets and give them symptoms similar to humans’.

Dr. Italo Zecca, postdoctoral research associate for the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University,, said he is part of a team researching if common household pets can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2.

“We’ve sampled over 200 pets, mostly dogs and cats, some other small domestic animals as well,” Zecca said. “So what we’ve learned so far is that animals can be exposed to the virus itself … What that’s telling us is that these animals can get infected, but they can also produce some sort of immune response to the virus itself.”

Zecca said that so far, none of the animals have died or had serious symptoms.

“Most of them have shown no symptoms whatsoever,” Zecca said. “The few that have shown symptoms, they have been very mild symptoms that include sneezing, maybe a little bit of loss of appetite, a little tired, but from then, we followed up with those pets, and they have made a full recovery.”

There’s not enough evidence yet to prove that animals cause significant spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, but Zecca said being cautious with pets is key.

“I know that can be difficult because when you’re sick, you just want to cuddle with your pet,” Zecca said. “Just try to reduce it as much as possible. That way you reduce the chance of giving it to your pet, and also you reduce the chance of the unknown. We don’t know if this pet is going to potentially get infected and then give it to another human.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Organization for Animal Health recommends that humans with COVID-19 limit contact with all animals, Michael Muehlenbein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology said.

Muehlenbein said cats can transmit the virus to other cats, but dogs are not as susceptible. Companion animals have not been proven to play a large role in human transmission.

“Transmission from humans to cats and dogs is possible, and transmission from cats and dogs to humans is possible,” Muehlenbein said. “If you have the virus and your pet becomes sick, call your veterinarian. Do not just bring the sick animal into the clinic.”