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Can your pets get infected with the new coronavirus? Can they infect you? Here’s what we know about pets and COVID-19.

With recent news reports of animals testing positive for the new coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness, you may be understandably worried about your furry friends at home. Here’s what we know so far and steps you can take to protect your beloved companion.

Can my cat or dog get COVID-19?

In some situations, yes. In fact, two cats in New York recently tested positive for COVID-19. However, at this time, it’s very rare. And only a few of the animals who tested positive actually showed signs of illness.

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses,” explains Dr. Stanley Martin, system director of infectious diseases at Geisinger. “Some cause illness in humans, while others can cause illness in certain animals.”

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is mainly spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when you cough, sneeze or talk.

But if you have it, it is technically possible for you to infect your pet. And this is what we’ve seen in most of the reported cases.

Can animals spread COVID-19 to humans?

It’s possible in theory, but there hasn’t been any evidence of animal-to-human spread thus far.

While it’s widely believed that COVID-19 originated from bats, we still don’t know the exact source of the new coronavirus.

“With the evidence we have right now, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is considered low,” says Dr. Martin. “Humans appear to pose more risk to their pets than they do to us.”

Until we know more about the new coronavirus, the CDC advises taking steps to protect yourself – and your pets.

How you can protect your pets from coronavirus

If you're sick with either suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should avoid contact with your pets as much as possible. While sick, take the following steps to help protect your pet:

  • Have another member of your household care for your pet (if possible).
  • If you have to care for your pet while you’re sick, wear a face mask and wash your hands before and after caring for them.
  • Avoid any contact with your pet, including petting, allowing them to lick you and letting your pet snuggle or sleep in bed with you.

Other ways you can protect your pets:

  • Practice social (physical) distancing. Don’t let them interact with anyone outside of your household.
  • Keep cats inside, if possible.
  • While walking your dog, keep them on a leash and at least 6 feet away from other pets and humans.
  • Avoid dog parks or large gatherings with other people and pets.

What to do if your pet is sick

If you’re sick and your pet is showing signs of illness, it’s advised that you call your veterinarian first for care recommendations. Be sure to let them know that you have COVID-19, so proper precautions can be taken while getting your pet the treatment they may need.

“The risk of your pet getting COVID-19 is low,” says Dr. Martin. “Practicing common prevention measures can help protect your pet, yourself and others from getting sick.”

Next steps:

Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center

How to properly wash your hands

What to do if you suspect (or know) you have COVID-19

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COVID-19 updates: Visit Geisinger's Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest information and helpful resources.