COVID-19 and Pets

COVID-19 and Pets

A veterinary professional wears a mask in the Animal Medical Center's waiting room

Last updated: 6/24/20, 4:26pm EST

We’re closely monitoring the current COVID-19 outbreak and what it means for our companion animals and our facility. As an essential business, we will continue providing veterinary care to companion animals during the COVID-19 outbreak, following all recommendations to ensure the safety of our clients and staff. We will update this page with relevant information as it becomes available.

Please consider a donation to AMC’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund to help support our lifesaving work during this difficult time.



Frequently Asked Questions

A note on terminology: COVID-19 is the name of the disease in humans. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus and the name of the disease in animals.

Select One:

Can pets get COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer:

  • There is some evidence indicating that pets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, but these cases are very rare. Among all known cases, the source of the virus appears to be human family members with COVID-19.
  • Cats may be more easily infected than dogs and may more readily show signs of illness.
  • Ferrets have shown susceptibility to infection in experimental settings, but there are no reported cases among pet ferrets.
  • The USDA maintains a list of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected animals in the United States on its website. A global list is maintained by the World Organization of Animal Health.

Dogs

In late February and early March, two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that human-to-animal transmission might be possible. However, neither dog showed clinical signs of infection, and it’s understood that the dogs were infected by their owners, who were diagnosed with COVID-19.

In late April, a North Carolina dog participating in a Duke University research study was diagnosed as presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 after multiple human family members tested positive for COVID-19. However, the dog’s diagnosis could not be confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Researchers now believe the dog’s initial test swab may have been contaminated by virus from a family member.

On June 2nd, the USDA confirmed the first case of SARS-CoV-2 in a dog in the United States: a German shepherd in New York State. One of the dog’s owners had previously tested positive for COVID-19, and another owner displayed symptoms of the disease but was not tested. It’s presumed the dog was infected by these family members. Contrary to previous SARS-CoV-2 cases in dogs, which have not exhibit clinical signs of infection, this dog did display mild respiratory illness. However, it’s unclear whether the illness was coincidental with SARS-CoV-2 infection or caused by it. Another dog in the same household tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, suggesting previous infection, though this dog did not display any signs of illness. The German shepherd is expected to make a full recovery.

Cats

Cats appear to be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and a number of cases have been reported, including:

A complete list of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected animals can be found on the website of the World Organization of Animal Health.

Ferrets

Ferrets have long been a model for studying human respiratory disease due to the similarities in susceptibility to viral infections, so it’s not surprising that they have shown susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection in experimental settings. However, these experiments have involved exposing ferrets to large amounts of the SARS CoV-2 virus, possibly more than a pet ferret would be exposed to if their owner had COVID-19. Experimental studies are important in furthering our understanding of COVID-19, but the studies conducted on ferrets have not mimicked natural exposure that would occur in a home where people and pets interact.

Why could cats be more susceptible than dogs?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 enters cells via a receptor called ACE2. The ACE2 receptor of cats is nearly identical to the human receptor. The dog ACE2 receptor is only about 70% the same as the human receptor.

Can SARS-CoV-2 be spread by companion animals?

Short Answer: There is no evidence that dogs or cats can be a source of infection for humans, however cats may be able to spread the disease to other cats.

The Centers for Disease Control, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the American Veterinary Medical Association all agree that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread SARS-CoV-2 to humans.

However, a study conducted by veterinarians in Wisconsin demonstrated that cats can spread the disease to other cats in an experimental setting, although none of the cats showed signs of respiratory illness.

As a general precaution against all infectious diseases, regular hand washing and good hygiene are recommended before and after interacting with any companion animal.

Can my pet get tested for SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer: Routine testing is not recommended, but it’s possible under certain circumstances.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control, New York State public health officials, and various veterinary organizations, routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended in companion animals.

However, if your pet meets the following criteria and you would like to have your pet tested, please discuss testing options with your veterinarian.

  • Pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19 or has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
  • Pet has already been tested for more common infections, which a veterinarian has ruled out
  • Pet (especially cats and ferrets) is showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19

Please Note: Since COVID-19 is a reportable disease, veterinarians must notify the health department of any pets testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

What can I do to protect my pet during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Short Answer: Practice social distancing with your pet and have an emergency plan. If you are sick, limit interaction with your pet.

The same social distancing measures implemented to reduce the human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 should be applied to your pets. You should:

  • Avoid crowded, public spaces
  • Limit your pet’s contact with other humans and animals
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Keep your cat indoors

If you are sick, restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. When possible, have another member of your household take care of feeding and caring for your pets. If you have a service animal or you must care for your animals, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them. Even if you are not sick, wash your hands before and after every interaction with your pet.

It’s also important to have an emergency plan in place in case you get sick and are unable to care for your pet. Following American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidance, AMC has put together a comprehensive guide for pet planning during COVID-19. Please download the PDF resource below.

What clinical signs do pets show when they’re infected with SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer: Infected pets have ranged from asymptomatic to showing mild respiratory and gastrointestinal illness, however cases are rare, and much is unknown about the infection in companion animals.

There is still much that’s unknown about SARS-CoV-2 and companion animals, and positive cases of infection are rare. That makes it hard for researchers to say definitively what clinical signs to watch for in pets, however the infection may resemble a mild version of the human disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, expected clinical signs in pets may include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal/Ocular discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What should I do if my pet is displaying clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection or tests positive?

Short Answer: Fortunately, pets that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to display only mild clinical signs of illness, if any, and recover without treatment. However, you should limit contact with them while they recover.

At this time, there is no treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans or animals. Fortunately, companion animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to display only mild clinical signs of illness, if any, and recover without treatment. Additionally, the rate of infection in companion animals appears to be very, very small when compared to the rate of infection in humans.

However, to protect yourself and your family, you should limit contact with any SARS-CoV-2-positive animal. Although there is no evidence that companion animals can be a source of infection for humans, medical researchers are still learning about the disease, including the exact mechanism of transmission.

If your pet is sick, you should follow recommended infectious disease protocol and hygiene while caring for them, including:

  • Limit interaction with the pet as much as possible
  • Wear gloves and a cloth facemask while providing care
  • Wash your hands before and after any contact with them

Pet owners should limit interaction with SARS-CoV-2 infected pets until the pet has recovered from the illness and it’s been at least 14 days since the first clinical sign of illness or the pet has received a negative test from a diagnostic lab.

Is the Animal Medical Center open?

YES! As an essential business, we are committed to staying open and fully operational, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we are taking all necessary precautions to maintain the safety of our facility. Beginning June 15th, clients can make appointments with any of our 20+ services and specialties, in addition to our 24/7 emergency and urgent care services, which have remained open throughout the pandemic. Please call us at (212) 838-8100 to coordinate your visit.

What can I expect from curbside drop-off and pick-up at AMC?

To ensure the safety and well-being of our clients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, appointments can now occur without the client accompanying the pet into the hospital. Clients should also follow New York State guidance by wearing a mask at all times on AMC premises.

  • When you arrive at AMC, you will be greeted by a facilitator who will assist you with curb side check-in.
  • After check-in, you and your pet can wait in our climate-controlled outdoor reception area.
  • Your doctor will call you on your personal cell phone to learn about your pet’s needs.
  • When it’s time for your pet’s visit, an AMC staff member will take your pet into the building.
  • While your pet is at AMC, you are free to wait in our outdoor waiting area, in your car, at your home, or anywhere that is most comfortable to you.
  • Once the visit is complete, you will receive a call to begin the checkout process.
  • Following check-out, you will be notified when your pet is ready to be released and a staff member will return your pet, along with any necessary medications, to you at the lobby door.

Please arrive at AMC with your phone fully charged to ensure you can communicate effectively with our medical staff.

Can I accompany my pet into the hospital?

Beginning Monday, June 15th, the Animal Medical Center will offer limited access to the hospital for clients using the safety protocol outlined below. However, capacity is limited, so please be prepared to follow the curbside drop-off and pick-up protocol listed above.

AMC clients will be allowed to enter the building under the following conditions:

  • 1 person per pet in most instances. Exceptions include:
    • Euthanasia (2 people per pet)
    • A parent or guardian with a child
    • A disabled client with an aide
  • Face masks are required for all who enter the building. Extra face masks will be available for those who don’t have masks.
  • All clients entering the building will be screened for COVID-19 exposure and illness, per New York State guidelines.
  • Once inside the building, all clients will be asked to follow social distancing protocols in waiting areas and foot traffic instructions hallways.

What if my pet is experiencing an emergency?

Our 24/7 Emergency and Critical Care and Urgent Care Fast Track Services are fully equipped to provide the highest quality care for your pet in the event of an emergency. AMC is the only Level 1 Veterinary Trauma Center in New York City and one of only a few trauma centers in the country that can provide comprehensive care for small animal patients.

What if I need to reschedule an appointment?

There is currently NO FEE for appointment cancellations. Please call us at (212) 838-8100 to reschedule.

What else is AMC doing to protect patients, clients, and staff from COVID-19?

SOCIAL DISTANCING AND LIMITED ACCESS TO OUR FACILITY

To enforce social distancing among and between clients and staff, we have taken the following measures:

  • Temporarily relocated our 2nd floor waiting room to a climate-controlled outdoor reception area in our parking lot
  • Limited building access to essential visits only (clients may use the 2nd floor bathroom one at a time, as enforced by AMC staff)
  • Cancelled or postponed all in-person events and moved events online when possible

SANITATION & STERILIZATION

We are regularly cleaning and disinfecting our facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

What if I have other questions about COVID-19 and pets?

At the Animal Medical Center, we’re closely monitoring the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak and relaying as much information as we can from government agencies and veterinary experts to concerned pet owners.

On March 18th, we responded to your questions during a Facebook Live event with Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus and followed it up with “Ask a Vet” Zoom hangouts on April 7th and May 19th.

Our next “Ask a Vet” Zoom hangout is on June 24th. If you have further questions about this evolving situation, please submit them here and sign up for our pet health newsletter for more information regarding upcoming online events. Please continue to check this page for more information and updates.

Can pets get COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer:

  • There is some evidence indicating that pets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, but these cases are very rare. Among all known cases, the source of the virus appears to be human family members with COVID-19.
  • Cats may be more easily infected than dogs and may more readily show signs of illness.
  • Ferrets have shown susceptibility to infection in experimental settings, but there are no reported cases among pet ferrets.
  • The USDA maintains a list of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected animals in the United States on its website. A global list is maintained by the World Organization of Animal Health.

Dogs

In late February and early March, two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that human-to-animal transmission might be possible. However, neither dog showed clinical signs of infection, and it’s understood that the dogs were infected by their owners, who were diagnosed with COVID-19.

In late April, a North Carolina dog participating in a Duke University research study was diagnosed as presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 after multiple human family members tested positive for COVID-19. However, the dog’s diagnosis could not be confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Researchers now believe the dog’s initial test swab may have been contaminated by virus from a family member.

On June 2nd, the USDA confirmed the first case of SARS-CoV-2 in a dog in the United States: a German shepherd in New York State. One of the dog’s owners had previously tested positive for COVID-19, and another owner displayed symptoms of the disease but was not tested. It’s presumed the dog was infected by these family members. Contrary to previous SARS-CoV-2 cases in dogs, which have not exhibit clinical signs of infection, this dog did display mild respiratory illness. However, it’s unclear whether the illness was coincidental with SARS-CoV-2 infection or caused by it. Another dog in the same household tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, suggesting previous infection, though this dog did not display any signs of illness. The German shepherd is expected to make a full recovery.

Cats

Cats appear to be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and a number of cases have been reported, including:

A complete list of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected animals can be found on the website of the World Organization of Animal Health.

Ferrets

Ferrets have long been a model for studying human respiratory disease due to the similarities in susceptibility to viral infections, so it’s not surprising that they have shown susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection in experimental settings. However, these experiments have involved exposing ferrets to large amounts of the SARS CoV-2 virus, possibly more than a pet ferret would be exposed to if their owner had COVID-19. Experimental studies are important in furthering our understanding of COVID-19, but the studies conducted on ferrets have not mimicked natural exposure that would occur in a home where people and pets interact.

Why could cats be more susceptible than dogs?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 enters cells via a receptor called ACE2. The ACE2 receptor of cats is nearly identical to the human receptor. The dog ACE2 receptor is only about 70% the same as the human receptor.

Can SARS-CoV-2 be spread by companion animals?

Short Answer: There is no evidence that dogs or cats can be a source of infection for humans, however cats may be able to spread the disease to other cats.

The Centers for Disease Control, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the American Veterinary Medical Association all agree that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread SARS-CoV-2 to humans.

However, a study conducted by veterinarians in Wisconsin demonstrated that cats can spread the disease to other cats in an experimental setting, although none of the cats showed signs of respiratory illness.

As a general precaution against all infectious diseases, regular hand washing and good hygiene are recommended before and after interacting with any companion animal.

Can my pet get tested for SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer: Routine testing is not recommended, but it’s possible under certain circumstances.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control, New York State public health officials, and various veterinary organizations, routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended in companion animals.

However, if your pet meets the following criteria and you would like to have your pet tested, please discuss testing options with your veterinarian.

  • Pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19 or has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
  • Pet has already been tested for more common infections, which a veterinarian has ruled out
  • Pet (especially cats and ferrets) is showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19

Please Note: Since COVID-19 is a reportable disease, veterinarians must notify the health department of any pets testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

What can I do to protect my pet during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Short Answer: Practice social distancing with your pet and have an emergency plan. If you are sick, limit interaction with your pet.

The same social distancing measures implemented to reduce the human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 should be applied to your pets. You should:

  • Avoid crowded, public spaces
  • Limit your pet’s contact with other humans and animals
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • Keep your cat indoors

If you are sick, restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. When possible, have another member of your household take care of feeding and caring for your pets. If you have a service animal or you must care for your animals, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them. Even if you are not sick, wash your hands before and after every interaction with your pet.

It’s also important to have an emergency plan in place in case you get sick and are unable to care for your pet. Following American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidance, AMC has put together a comprehensive guide for pet planning during COVID-19. Please download the PDF resource below.

What clinical signs do pets show when they’re infected with SARS-CoV-2?

Short Answer: Infected pets have ranged from asymptomatic to showing mild respiratory and gastrointestinal illness, however cases are rare, and much is unknown about the infection in companion animals.

There is still much that’s unknown about SARS-CoV-2 and companion animals, and positive cases of infection are rare. That makes it hard for researchers to say definitively what clinical signs to watch for in pets, however the infection may resemble a mild version of the human disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, expected clinical signs in pets may include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal/Ocular discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What should I do if my pet is displaying clinical signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection or tests positive?

Short Answer: Fortunately, pets that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to display only mild clinical signs of illness, if any, and recover without treatment. However, you should limit contact with them while they recover.

At this time, there is no treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans or animals. Fortunately, companion animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 seem to display only mild clinical signs of illness, if any, and recover without treatment. Additionally, the rate of infection in companion animals appears to be very, very small when compared to the rate of infection in humans.

However, to protect yourself and your family, you should limit contact with any SARS-CoV-2-positive animal. Although there is no evidence that companion animals can be a source of infection for humans, medical researchers are still learning about the disease, including the exact mechanism of transmission.

If your pet is sick, you should follow recommended infectious disease protocol and hygiene while caring for them, including:

  • Limit interaction with the pet as much as possible
  • Wear gloves and a cloth facemask while providing care
  • Wash your hands before and after any contact with them

Pet owners should limit interaction with SARS-CoV-2 infected pets until the pet has recovered from the illness and it’s been at least 14 days since the first clinical sign of illness or the pet has received a negative test from a diagnostic lab.

Is the Animal Medical Center open?

YES! As an essential business, we are committed to staying open and fully operational, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we are taking all necessary precautions to maintain the safety of our facility. Beginning June 15th, clients can make appointments with any of our 20+ services and specialties, in addition to our 24/7 emergency and urgent care services, which have remained open throughout the pandemic. Please call us at (212) 838-8100 to coordinate your visit.

What can I expect from curbside drop-off and pick-up at AMC?

To ensure the safety and well-being of our clients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, appointments can now occur without the client accompanying the pet into the hospital. Clients should also follow New York State guidance by wearing a mask at all times on AMC premises.

  • When you arrive at AMC, you will be greeted by a facilitator who will assist you with curb side check-in.
  • After check-in, you and your pet can wait in our climate-controlled outdoor reception area.
  • Your doctor will call you on your personal cell phone to learn about your pet’s needs.
  • When it’s time for your pet’s visit, an AMC staff member will take your pet into the building.
  • While your pet is at AMC, you are free to wait in our outdoor waiting area, in your car, at your home, or anywhere that is most comfortable to you.
  • Once the visit is complete, you will receive a call to begin the checkout process.
  • Following check-out, you will be notified when your pet is ready to be released and a staff member will return your pet, along with any necessary medications, to you at the lobby door.

Please arrive at AMC with your phone fully charged to ensure you can communicate effectively with our medical staff.

Can I accompany my pet into the hospital?

Beginning Monday, June 15th, the Animal Medical Center will offer limited access to the hospital for clients using the safety protocol outlined below. However, capacity is limited, so please be prepared to follow the curbside drop-off and pick-up protocol listed above.

AMC clients will be allowed to enter the building under the following conditions:

  • 1 person per pet in most instances. Exceptions include:
    • Euthanasia (2 people per pet)
    • A parent or guardian with a child
    • A disabled client with an aide
  • Face masks are required for all who enter the building. Extra face masks will be available for those who don’t have masks.
  • All clients entering the building will be screened for COVID-19 exposure and illness, per New York State guidelines.
  • Once inside the building, all clients will be asked to follow social distancing protocols in waiting areas and foot traffic instructions hallways.

What if my pet is experiencing an emergency?

Our 24/7 Emergency and Critical Care and Urgent Care Fast Track Services are fully equipped to provide the highest quality care for your pet in the event of an emergency. AMC is the only Level 1 Veterinary Trauma Center in New York City and one of only a few trauma centers in the country that can provide comprehensive care for small animal patients.

What if I need to reschedule an appointment?

There is currently NO FEE for appointment cancellations. Please call us at (212) 838-8100 to reschedule.

What else is AMC doing to protect patients, clients, and staff from COVID-19?

SOCIAL DISTANCING AND LIMITED ACCESS TO OUR FACILITY

To enforce social distancing among and between clients and staff, we have taken the following measures:

  • Temporarily relocated our 2nd floor waiting room to a climate-controlled outdoor reception area in our parking lot
  • Limited building access to essential visits only (clients may use the 2nd floor bathroom one at a time, as enforced by AMC staff)
  • Cancelled or postponed all in-person events and moved events online when possible

SANITATION & STERILIZATION

We are regularly cleaning and disinfecting our facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

What if I have other questions about COVID-19 and pets?

At the Animal Medical Center, we’re closely monitoring the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak and relaying as much information as we can from government agencies and veterinary experts to concerned pet owners.

On March 18th, we responded to your questions during a Facebook Live event with Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus and followed it up with “Ask a Vet” Zoom hangouts on April 7th and May 19th.

Our next “Ask a Vet” Zoom hangout is on June 24th. If you have further questions about this evolving situation, please submit them here and sign up for our pet health newsletter for more information regarding upcoming online events. Please continue to check this page for more information and updates.