Animals and COVID-19

At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.  A small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19.

Pets have other types of coronaviruses that can make them sick, like canine and feline coronaviruses. These other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene. For more information on the many benefits of pet ownership, as well as staying safe and healthy around animals including pets, livestock, and wildlife, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets.

Since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use. These substances may poison your pet and lead to serious illness or death.

Walking a dog is important for both animal and human health and well-being. Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals, do not gather in groups, stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. Avoid going to dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather. To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk.

Until we know more about how this virus affects animals, CDC encourages pet owners to treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from possible infection. This means limiting contact between pets and people or animals outside the household as much as possible and avoiding places where large numbers of animals and people gather.

If you must take your pet to a groomer, daycare, or boarding facility, follow any protocols put into place at the facility, such as wearing a cloth face covering and maintaining at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others if possible.

Limit pet items brought from home to the facility and thoroughly clean any objects that are taken into a facility and returned home (such as leashes, bowls, and toys). Such items can be cleaned with warm, soapy water and allowed to dry. If you use a chemical disinfectant on your pet’s items, use an EPA-registered disinfectant and make sure that product is safe for use around animals. Disinfected items should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry before reuse. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use. These substances may poison your pet and lead to serious illness or death.

Do not put face coverings on pets, and do not take a sick pet to a groomer, daycare, or boarding facility. If you think your pet is sick, call your veterinarian. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care.

Dog parks provide socialization and exercise for dogs, which is an important part of their wellbeing. Because there is a small risk that people with COVID-19 could spread it to animals, CDC recommends that you do not let pets interact with people outside of your household, especially in places with community spread of COVID-19. Therefore, you should consider avoiding dog parks or other places where large numbers of people and dogs gather.

Some areas are allowing dog parks to open. If you choose to go to a dog park, follow local guidelines. There are ways to reduce the risk of you or your dog getting infected with COVID-19 if you go to a dog park.

  • Do not take your dog to a dog park if you are sick or if you have recently been in close contact with a person with COVID-19.
  • Do not take your dog to a dog park if your dog is sick. Signs of sickness in dogs may include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, discharge from the nose or eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • If your dog has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, talk to your veterinarian about when it is appropriate for your pet to go back to normal activities.
  • Try to limit your dog’s interaction with other people outside of your household while at the dog park.
  • As much as possible, avoid touching common items in the dog park like water bowls. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching items from the park. To make sure your dog has fresh water, consider bringing your own portable water bowl.
  • Limit other pet items brought to the dog park, such as toys. Clean and disinfect anything taken to the park and returned home (leashes, toys, water bowls).
  • Do not wipe or bathe your dog with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use.

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although reports of animals becoming sick with COVID-19 are rare, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with mammalian animals until more is known about the virus.

When possible, people should shelter in place with their pets and have a healthy member of the household provide care for the animals. Those who are sick should avoid contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food while you are sick.

Whenever possible, people should shelter in place with their companion animals. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, you should wash your hands before and after you interact with your pets and wear a facemask when you must interact with your animals (e.g. during feeding or walking). Those who are sick should avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food with their animals while sick.

Every effort should be made to allow companion animals to continue to cohabitate with their family when possible. If there is not a healthy family member or friend who can care for the pet while someone is hospitalized, temporary sheltering of the animal might be necessary. Such animals can be boarded at a pet boarding facility (e.g., veterinary clinic, animal shelter, or other boarding facility).

While the risks of COVID-19 from contact with such animals are considered very low, it is nonetheless prudent that caregivers use the best available information on general infection prevention for contagious diseases, including coronaviruses.

  • Whenever possible, entry into the home where a person with COVID-19 lived should be avoided in order to prevent person-to-person transmission. Companion animals should be collected with minimal contact with people living in the home. This includes remaining a minimum of 6 feet away from other people and limiting contact with the home environment.
    • If collection of the animal means interacting with people from COVID-19 infected households or being exposed to home environments that might be contaminated with the virus, public health officials may recommend personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide training in the proper use of such equipment. Consult with your local health department.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before and after handling a companion animal.
  • If an animal needs to be housed in an animal shelter, veterinary clinic, or boarding facility, gloves and gowns or coveralls should be worn while performing routine intake exams and treatments in order to reduce contagious disease risks.
    • Gloves and gowns or coveralls are a good infection prevention control practice generally, and continue to be important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gowns or coveralls should be laundered before reuse if going to be reused.
    • Hands should always be washed with soap and water including after gloves are removed and discarded.
    • The animal intake area as well as materials in animal areas such as food and water bowls and bedding should be routinely cleaned and sanitized.
    • There is no need to bathe an animal because of COVID-19 concerns; at this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets.
    • Animals that were in contact with COVID-19 should be separated from the general animal population during the animal’s stay due to the unknown risks associated with this rapidly evolving emerging infectious disease. While there is no evidence at this time that any animals, including companion animals, might be a source of infection for humans, it is prudent to keep companion animals that came from households where a person was infected with COVID-19 separated from the general animal population out of an abundance of caution.
      • Every effort should be made to promptly reunite sheltered companion animals with their owners.
      • Animals that need to be adopted or sent to a foster home should be held for 14 days out of an abundance of caution.
    • Dogs should be walked outside for elimination and exercise but direct contact with other companion animals should be avoided as a best practice to protect animal health.
    • Routine cleaning and disinfection is important in animal areas. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure. Normal cleaning and disinfection protocols for both animal housing and common areas used in shelters are sufficient. Increased sanitation of surfaces frequently touched by people (e.g. light switches and door knobs) is recommended to reduce exposure to/from humans.

There are no restrictions on healthy people (those without symptoms or signs of COVID-19) interacting with service or therapy animals. As animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.

VDH recommends that sick people avoid contact with animals whenever possible. In some situations, it might be necessary for a patient to be in contact with these animals. For people who are sick and need to be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after interacting with animals and wear a facemask during animal contact.

There are no restrictions on healthy people (those without symptoms or signs of COVID-19) interacting with animals. As animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.

 Also, make sure that you have adequate supplies of food, medications and any other items necessary for both you and your pets for the length of quarantine recommended (i.e., up to 14 days) for those exposed to COVID-19.

Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. There is no reason to think that any animals, including shelter pets, play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

We are still learning about this new coronavirus and how it spreads. Of the handful of animals confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S,  it is believed that all of the animals became sick after contact with infected people. Recent research shows that ferrets, cats, and golden Syrian hamsters can be experimentally infected with the virus and can spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings. Pigs, chickens, and ducks did not become infected or spread the infection based on results from these studies. Data from one study suggested dogs are not as likely to become infected with the virus as cats and ferrets. These findings were based off of a small number of animals, and do not indicate whether animals can spread infection to people.

At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals may be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19.

For additional information, see: CDC COVID-19: Pets and Other Animals

We are still learning about this virus and how it spreads, but it appears it can spread from humans to animals in some situations. The CDC is aware of a very small number of pets reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with people with COVID-19, however, there is no evidence that pets, including cats and dogs, play a significant role in spreading COVID-19 to people. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking.

People sick with COVID-19 should isolate themselves from other people and animals, including pets, during their illness until we know more about how this virus affects animals. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with pets.

Keep pets indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.

For additional information, see: CDC COVID-19: Pets and Other Animals

USDA and CDC do not recommend routine testing of animals for this virus. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test animals in certain unique circumstances. The decision to test should be made collaboratively between local, state and federal public and animal health officials.

Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed to a person sick with COVID-19, and if your animal is showing any signs of illness. Veterinarians with questions about testing can contact state animal and public health officials who will work with federal authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest the virus that causes COVID-19 is circulating in free-living wildlife in the United States, or that wildlife might be a source of infection for people in the United States. The first case of a wild animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was a tiger with respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. However, this tiger was in a captive zoo environment, and public health officials believe the tiger became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected and spreading the virus.

If a wild animal were to become infected with the virus, we don’t know whether the infection could then spread among wildlife or if it could spread to other animals, including pets. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including wildlife, could be affected by COVID-19. Because wildlife can carry other diseases, even without looking sick, it is always important to enjoy wildlife from a distance.

Take steps to prevent getting sick from wildlife in the United States:

  • Keep your family, including pets, a safe distance away from wildlife.
  • Do not feed wildlife or touch wildlife droppings.
  • Always wash your hands and supervise children washing their hands after working or playing outside.
  • Leave orphaned animals alone. Often, the parents are close by and will return for their young.
  • Consult your state wildlife agency’s guidance if you are preparing or consuming legally harvested game meat.
  • Do not approach or touch a sick or dead animal – contact your state wildlife agency instead.

Other coronaviruses have been found in North American bats in the past, but there is currently no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 is present in any free-living wildlife in the United States, including bats. In general, coronaviruses do not cause illness or death in bats, but we don’t yet know if this new coronavirus would make North American species of bats sick. Bats are an important part of natural ecosystems, and their populations are already declining in the United States. Bat populations could be further threatened by the disease itself or by harm inflicted on bats resulting from a misconception that bats are spreading COVID-19. However, there is no evidence that bats in the United States are a source of the virus that causes COVID-19 for people. Further studies are needed to understand if and how bats could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19.

You should follow state and local jurisdictional guidance regarding continuing operations at your facility. There have not been any reports of horses testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to people is considered to be very low. COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person, so steps should be taken to reduce the risks for people visiting your facility.

 

  • Encourage employees and other visitors, including boarders, owners, farriers, veterinarians, and those taking lessons, not to enter the facility if they are sick.
    • People who have been sick should not enter the facility until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, after talking with their doctor.
    • Implement sick leave policies for employees that are flexible, nonpunitive, and consistent with public health guidance, allowing employees to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Consider conducting daily health checks (e.g., symptom and/or temperature screening) of employees and others visiting the facility before they enter the premises. People with a fever of 100.4℉ (38.0℃) or above or other signs of illness should not be admitted to the premises. If implementing health checks, conduct them safely and respectfully. See our General Business page for more information.
    • Employees or visitors who appear to have symptoms upon arrival or who become sick during their visit should immediately be separated from other employees and visitors and sent home.
  • Limit the number of people entering the facility. Consider staggering lesson and visiting times to limit the number of people in the facility and the potential for person-to-person contact. You can also take steps to decrease high-traffic areas by limiting areas open to visitors/owners and staggering use of common areas like grooming or wash stalls and tack rooms.
  • Increase distance and limit duration of contact between employees and visitors in the facility. Whenever possible, people should maintain at least 6 feet of distance between each other at the facility, including instructors teaching lessons. Allow for social distancing and avoid large numbers of people within the facility, including in employee-only areas.
  • Visitors and employees should wear cloth face coverings to protect others especially where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Wearing a cloth face covering does NOT replace the need to practice social distancing.
  • Set up hand hygiene stations at the entrance and within the facility, so that employees and people entering can clean their hands before they enter. Employees should wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • An alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can be used, but if hands are visibly dirty, they should be washed with soap and water before using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Examples of hand hygiene stations may be a hose and soap located at entrances to allow for handwashing before entry.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as grooming tools, halters, lead ropes, shared tack and equipment, and door handles/gates (including those to stall doors and pasture/turn out areas) on a routine basis. To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 and are appropriate for the surface, diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol. Follow manufacturer’s directions for use, especially regarding product contact time and protections from chemical hazards posed by cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Follow local guidance on shelter in place and travel recommendations when traveling for showing, training, or trail riding.
  • If traveling to a new facility, limit contact between people, horses, tack, equipment, and other supplies from different facilities, and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between horses and riders.
    • Follow state and local guidance on travel. People who are sick should not travel to other facilities.
    • People visiting other facilities should follow the same precautions as they would normally, including maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between each other, wearing a cloth face covering to protect others, and washing hands frequently with soap and water.
  • If other animals, such as barn cats, are present at the facility, be aware that a small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19.

For more information, see:

VDH: Businesses and COVID-19

CDC: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and Interim Guidance for Businesses

CDC: Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Page last reviewed: July 9, 2020