Can Pets Get Coronavirus? Here's What You Need To Know

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As of Feb. 10, the coronavirus has killed at least 910 people globally, and infected more than 40,000 people, according to CNN, making it worse than the 2003 SARS outbreak in terms of fatalities. Reading those numbers can be scary, and it's easy to understand why people around the world are so concerned for their health. With that said, though, there are plenty of things you don't have to worry about, when it comes to the virus — and a fear of your pet getting this coronavirus is one of them.

The claim that household pets can spread this specific type of coronavirus, whether in the United States or in China, is a myth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus." However, the organization does suggest that you always wash your hands with soap and water after you've touched your pet, in order to prevent the passage of common bacteria, like E.coli and Salmonella.

This might be confusing if you own a cat or a dog and have been warned about them getting a coronavirus in the past. But the distinction is that there's more than one type of coronavirus. "Almost every animal species has its own coronavirus, and in some cases more than one," Dr. Niels Pedersen Ph.D., a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the U.C. Davis Veterinary Medicine school, tells Bustle.

Pedersen continues, "Coronaviruses exist in most of the species that come in close contact with humans, such as dogs and cats. The feline and dog coronaviruses, which people are most interested in, do not infect humans and vice versa."

"Humans have their own genetically distinct types of coronaviruses," Pedersen adds, before clarifying, "Cross species transfer does occur, but only after significant mutation and over many years, centuries and millennia."

So you don't really have to worry about your pet catching the same coronavirus you could catch. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend that people traveling to China avoid animals for the time being, while researchers work to identify the source. "CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus," its site explains. It adds that the virus is now being spread from human-to-human as opposed to animal-to-human.

At the end of the day, you should make sure that you're taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure that you stay healthy. That's the best thing you can do for your pet. After all, you can only take care of your favorite fluffy friend if you first take care of yourself. You can also stay up to date on the latest news around the coronavirus by following the social media accounts of organizations like the WHO and CDC.


Dr. Niels Pedersen, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine