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Note: The scientific name of this novel coronavirus is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In people, the disease caused by the virus is called Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. In the context of animal health, the disease is referred to as SARS-CoV-2.

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets and particles. Currently, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus, and the role animals may play in the spread of COVID-19.

For additional questions, please email Beth Lipton, Public Health Veterinarian, at Beth.Lipton@kingcounty.gov.

Pet owners

Animals, including pets, can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Most of these animals became infected after contact with people with COVID-19, including owners, caretakers, or others who were in close contact. Some of the animals reported to be infected include:

  • Companion animals, including pet cats, dogs, and ferrets.
  • Animals in zoos and sanctuaries, including several types of big cats, otters, non-human primates, a binturong, a coatimundi, a fishing cat, and hyenas.
  • Mink on mink farms.
  • Wild white-tailed deer in several U.S. states.

A pet owner who is sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as they would with other people. Pet owners with COVID-19 should avoid contact with a pet including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed. There is no vaccine to protect pets from SARS-CoV-2. If an owner must care for the pet while sick, they should wear a face mask and wash their hands before and after interacting with the pet.

There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. People should not wipe or bathe a pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other products, such as hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are permitted to remain with their handlers.

CDC has a fact sheet for pet owners, What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Pets.

General considerations for veterinary facilities

COVID-19 remains a serious workplace hazard, and businesses must continue to reduce risk of transmission for their workers. Businesses need to follow requirements in accordance with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. With March 14, 2022 updates to the Washington State Secretary of Health Mask Order and Governor Proclamation, masks are not required in veterinary health care settings.

Pet owners who have COVID-19-like symptoms or is a suspected or confirmed case should not visit the veterinary facility and instead ask a family member or friend from outside the household to bring the animal to the veterinary facility. If a pet owner is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and must bring their pet to the clinic, actions should be taken that maintain physical distance and prevent the owner from having to enter the facility.

Pets infected with SARS-CoV-2 and testing for SARS-CoV-2

Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms. Most pets who have gotten sick only had mild illness and fully recovered. Some signs of illness in pets may include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal/ocular discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Routine testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2 is currently not recommended. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common cause of illness before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2, especially among pets without a COVID-19 exposure.

Close coordination between public health and the veterinary community is important if a companion animal is diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2. Because the risk of companion animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is low, necessary veterinary care for animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should not be withheld.

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