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Home > Dogs > Can Dogs Get COVID-19? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Can Dogs Get COVID-19? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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COVID-19 has been the word on everyone’s lips since 2020, when the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic. Naturally, it spreads panic about the health of all our loved ones, including our beloved pets. While we now have an understanding of the virus and know what precautions to take, our pets don’t, and so it’s up to us to protect them if the virus can get to them too. But first, before we start isolating our dogs, it’s important to know if our dogs can get infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection in people. And, if so, how can we protect them?

According to the latest evidence, a person with COVID-19 can potentially transmit the virus to animals; however, this is rare and it occurs after close and prolonged contact. On the other hand, the risk of pets spreading it to humans seems to be extremely low.

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Can Dogs Get COVID-19? 

COVID-19 is the disease that people develop after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are reports that dogs can get infected with the virus, but they do not get the disease as humans do. COVID-19 is not considered to be as much of a threat to dogs as it is to humans. There have been several studies involving domestic pets to confirm the presence of the virus, and it involved animals that were in close contact with infected humans 1.

It is essential to know that this is no cause for panic. Your dog will most likely be fine if they get infected by the virus that causes COVID-19, and there are things you can do to protect yourself and your dog from infection.

sick man lying in bed with his dog
Image by: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Spread COVID-19? 

There is limited evidence on whether dogs can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to their owners. What we know is that the virus can be spread from humans to pets in certain circumstances 2. Based on the current knowledge, we consider that dogs don’t play a role in spreading the virus. Dogs, however, can spread other pathogens that can make humans sick. These diseases are called zoonoses, and some examples include ringworm, sarcoptic mange, roundworms, rabies, and leptospirosis. 

Seniors aged 65 and older, young children, and people with compromised immune systems are at much higher risk, so they should be extra cautious when interacting with pets known to have any zoonotic disease.

How Severe Is SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Dogs?

When a dog gets infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 in people and they develop clinical signs, these can classified into three categories: 

  • Respiratory: coughing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, nasal and ocular discharge
  • Digestive: vomiting, diarrhea
  • General: lethargy, lack of appetite, fever

The good news is that, according to the data that is currently available, infections typically cause either very minor illness or no signs at all, and if they do become ill, they often pass quickly 4. Even though it’s possible, it seems unlikely that a dog would experience more severe symptoms.

sick australian shepherd dog
Image by: Irini Adler, Pixabay

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What Should I Do if My Dog Tests Positive for SARS-CoV-2?

If your dog becomes infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, you will need to follow the same precautions as you would if another family member got infected. Your vet will provide you with instructions. As a general rule: 

  • Try to isolate your dog in a separate room away from the rest of the family.
  • Do not let your dog interact with anyone outside the household.
  • Wear gloves when you interact with your dog or their bedding, waste, or food.
  • Wash your hands after interacting with your dog or handling any of your pet’s items.

Monitor your dog to see if the signs get worse, and if they do, call your vet. If you are worried or uncertain, keep in touch with your vet during this period, and they can guide you along. 

What Should You Do if You Have COVID-19?

If you test positive for COVID-19 and are worried about your dog, you should follow the same protocol that everyone has been advised to follow.

  • Isolate yourself from everyone, including your dog, except to provide care if you are alone in the home.
  • If there is someone else in your home, have that person care for your dog.
  • Avoid petting or cuddling, sharing food, and being licked by your dog.
  • Wear a mask while caring for your dog and gloves while handling its items.
  • Wash your hands after handling anything.

If you suspect you have passed the infection onto your dog, don’t take your dog to the vet yourself. Contact your vet and plan a virtual consultation. It is most likely that your dog will be fine and will recover quickly.

Woman wearing a protective face mask cuddles, plays with her dog at home because of the corona virus pandemic covid-19
Image Credit: MT-R, Shutterstock

Can Dogs Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Although several dogs have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, they cannot be vaccinated yet. Furthermore, the risk of infection and spreading COVID-19 is so small that there is currently no need for a vaccine from a public health standpoint.

While companies are still free to research and develop these vaccines, they cannot sell or distribute them without a license.

Some zoo animals have received an experimental vaccine from the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis against SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine has been administered on a case-by-case basis, considering each animal’s situation. Additionally, some animals are more likely to become ill from the virus than others.

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Keep Your Dog Safe While You Keep Yourself Safe

While keeping yourself safe from the COVID-19, some of the same methods may cause your dog more harm. There are some things you shouldn’t do and some things you can do to keep your dog safe.

  • Never put a mask on your dog’s face.
  • Never use chemical disinfectants such as hand sanitizer on your dog.
  • Talk to your vet about appropriate products for bathing and cleaning your dog.
  • Keep your dog at home if you are concerned about them getting infected.
  • If you do go out in public, choose areas with very few people.
  • Always wash and disinfect your hands before handling your dog’s items.
  • Keep your dog well-nourished with a high-quality diet.
  • Do not neglect your dog for fear that you may pass on the virus.
  • If you choose to keep your dog at home, be sure to find ways to enrich their environment and provide exercise and mental stimulation.
  • We understand COVID-19 is scary, and fear can cause us to make irrational decisions, but talk to your vet or get support if you ever feel you want to give up your dog. We mention this because some dog owners have gone to that extreme.

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Conclusion

Your dog can get Covid, but there is no need to panic. Dogs do not get as sick as humans; they don’t stay sick for as long, and it is rare for them to spread the virus. Look at it this way, veterinary hospitals were not overcrowded and running out of space like our hospitals. Humans are more at risk of Covid than dogs, and if you get infected, it’s best to limit contact with your pet, just like you would do with any other family member. However, making your dog wear a mask or sanitizing it is a step too far. If your dog gets covid and you feel unsure, contact your veterinarian.

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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