COVID-19 and Companion Animals Update

Dr. Mark Kummer, Medical Director

Seattle’s King 5 News agency recently published an article reporting positive COVID-19 tests in 23 dogs. All dogs were part of a research study being conducted by the University of Washington to determine if companion animals living in the homes with known COVID-19 human infections might also test positive for the virus.

These findings are consistent with prior scattered reports of companion animals, who are living with people with COVID-19 infection, testing positive for the virus. The importance of these positive tests is unclear. Thankfully, despite more than a year of the entire world living with COVID-19, severe clinical illness in companion dogs and cats is considered rare. Dogs, in particular, appear very resistant to becoming ill from COVID-19 (cats very slightly more susceptible). Also, thankfully, the CDC and WHO both continue to consider companion animals a very unlikely source of transmission to humans (on the contrary, all positive tests in companion animals have been in homes with known human COVID positive patients).

Currently, routine COVID testing for companion animals is not available, nor is it recommended by the CDC. If a companion animal with known COVID exposure has severe signs potentially consistent with COVID-19 (fever, lethargy, respiratory signs, GI signs), government approval can be sought for testing, but only after testing for more common illnesses has already been performed. At Fairhaven Vet, we have not, to date, had reason to seek such testing.

To be safe, Fairhaven Vet recommends that all pet owners follow the CDC’s guidelines by treating their pets just as they would a child, limiting exposure to people outside the household. If a person in the home has been diagnosed with COVID-19, ideally pets are isolated from this person just as would be other people in the home. If the COVID positive person must be the pet’s primary caregiver, mask wearing and hand washing should be observed. Because there is no evidence that the virus can spread from the skin/fur of our pets, please do NOT try to disinfect your pet’s fur (use a gentle pet-shampoo if you feel compelled to bathe your pet).

If your pet has had recent, known exposure to COVID and develops mild illness, simple home monitoring for resolution is likely all that is needed. If COVID infection is the cause (however unlikely), recovery without treatment is very likely. If your pet is more severely ill, please call to schedule an exam. If there has been known COVID exposure, and if other causes of illness have been ruled out, testing for COVID may be considered. Thankfully, the majority of the few documented cases of severe illness in dogs and cats worldwide have responded well to simple supportive care and medications to control inflammation.

More detailed information may be found on the CDC’s webpage about Pets and Covid: