Check Up With Blum: Coronavirus and Pets

May 14, 2020


Welcome back to our quarterly blog series, Check Up With Blum! With each entry, we are discussing a topic about canine or feline health that affects your Chicago pet. Join us this month as we cover a new topic with Dr. Natalie Marks of Blum Animal Hospital and learn about how you can help keep your best friend healthy and happy in the big city.

This time on Check Up With Blum, we are talking about Coronavirus and our pets. Keeping your pets safe and healthy during a global pandemic is a priority along with the rest of our friends and family members. Read on to learn more about COVID-19 and how it can affect your pet.

First, let’s discuss, can my dog or cat contract COVID-19 from a human?

Dr. Marks states that at this time, it is believed that dogs and cats CAN become infected with the COVID-19 virus when exposed in the same household to a COVID-19 positive human. This is why the CDC continues to recommend that if someone in your home has tested positive for COVID-19, it’s most appropriate to socially distance from your pets as much as possible and to do the same when on walks. It’s also recommended to avoid crowded public places like dog parks.

Now let’s talk a little more about how COVID-19 affects animals. What are the current symptoms?

In the limited cases of COVID-19 in dogs and cats, the signs have been primarily mild respiratory signs like sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and sometimes mild fever.

If a dog or cat contracts COVID-19 how is it treated?

With such a limited scope of cases, it’s hard to make large generalizations, but these patients have had mild respiratory signs and were treated with outpatient support of medications.

Can dogs/cats spread COVID-19 to other animals? To other humans?

At this time, dogs and cats are thought to be considered “dead-end” hosts to humans, which means although they can develop this disease, they are not thought to pass back to humans.  However, Dr. Marks states that to be clear, we have a limited number of cases and research is changing daily. With cats, there is some suggestion that they can pass to other cats (as evidenced by numerous lions and tigers being positive at the Bronx zoo), but again, confirmation about this is still pending.

Can veterinarians test for COVID-19 in pets? At what point should I bring in my pet?

Yes, veterinarians can test for COVID-19 in pets now. However, there are stringent guidelines as to which pets qualify for this. We’d need to see NEW respiratory signs in an otherwise healthy patient living in the home with a known COVID-19 positive human, AND we have to get permission from the state veterinarian to test due to the ongoing shortage of testing in human medicine and that this is a reportable disease.

If someone has a dog or cat that fits these qualifications, Dr. Marks would recommend that they FIRST call their veterinarian, see if telemedicine exists (because we also want to limit exposure in the veterinary hospital), and discuss next steps. They might vary depending on the severity of clinical signs, any underlying known medical conditions, and the health of the owner.

Are there any additional precautions I should take when bringing my pet to the vet for a regular appointment? What if I am bringing my pet in due to COVID-19 symptoms?

Every veterinary practice is a little different right now, but all request knowing the health status for the humans in the household (anyone testing positive for COVID-19 or having unexplained respiratory or COVID-19 related signs). If your household fits this scenario, a veterinary practice may request to see your pet via telemedicine or have other guidelines to keep the veterinary team members safe as well. 

It’s also important to have any questions ready to go and contact your veterinary practice ahead of time if your pet has increased anxiety being away from you – most practices are not allowing owners inside the buildings due to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety medications or give strategies to help your dog or cat be more relaxed for the visit.

Can I still take my dog out for a walk? If so, what precautions should I take?

Yes, you absolutely can, and we encourage continued daily exercise for both the physical and mental health of your dog! However, please continue to follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing and, as described above, avoid crowded dog parks and other settings where social distancing is not possible.

How can I keep my pet safe and help prevent them from getting COVID-19?

At this time, it is believed that dogs and cats acquire COVID-19 from the humans they live with or are in contact with in their immediate environment.  Dr. Marks reiterates that social distancing is very important, both outside and inside if someone tests positive or has any suspicious symptoms. Additionally, consistent and frequent hand washing is always essential.

Thank you to Dr. Natalie Marks at Blum Animal Hospital for her insight into Coronavirus and pets. We appreciate her hard work in making sure that every Chicago pet has the best life possible!

Blum Animal Hospital is located at 3219 N. Clark Street and has been caring for Chicago’s pets since 1952. They have been accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) since 1972. To learn more about Blum, their Fear Free certification and the calming techniques they use, check out their website!

Windy City Paws is a Chicago dog walker and petsitter committed to providing helpful information to Chicago dog and cat owners through its blog.