Can Dogs And Cats Get The Coronavirus?

Now that the coronavirus is officially a Situation Everybody Must Deal With, there are many things people are asking, possibly by falling on their knees and screaming their questions dramatically at the sky. Such as, how can you avoid getting COVID-19? How deadly is it? And what is the virus doing to your poor cats and dogs?

Fortunately, at least some of those questions can be answered. According to the World Health Organization, it's easy to improve your chances by washing your hands well and often, maintaining basic respiratory hygiene, keeping your hands off your face and keeping a careful distance between yourself and errant coughers. As the BBC tells us, it's incredibly difficult to tell how deadly the virus is, though researchers guesstimate the death rate at somewhere around one percent of the infected, with elderly people at a particularly high risk. As for cats and dogs, well, that's ... a very good question, actually. How are pets coping with the coronavirus situation? Does it affect them at all, or are they low key in grave danger and no one's paying any attention because of the human health crisis? Let's find out whether dogs and cats can get the coronavirus or not. 

The myth about pets and coronavirus

As the BBC tells us, there is a bit of a myth that you might be able to catch the coronavirus from pets. After all, the prevailing theory is that the virus got its start in wild animals in China, and may have gone under the radar until it made the jump to humans. However, as of March 9, 2020, evidence indicates that your dog or cat is unlikely to turn you into the latest COVID-19 statistic, or vice versa.

In fact, if you ask Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, the role of pets in the coronavirus situation isn't really a concept we should dwell too much on. "I still think it's questionable how relevant it is to the human outbreak as most of the global outbreak has been driven by human-to-human transmission," he says. "We need to find out more, but we don't need to panic."

That doggone virus

According to Primrose Riordan and Nicolle Liu of Financial Times, there actually is one confirmed case of doggy coronavirus. The fuzzy patient is a 17-year old Pomeranian from Hong Kong, who was only mildly infected and showed no signs of the illness. However, it was infected, and has since passed away, per the South China Morning Post.

At this time, the poor Pom doesn't really affect scientists' confidence that dogs are unlikely to become a vector for coronavirus. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, "To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease." They also note that the Hong Kong dog was actually exposed to its coronavirus-infected owners, not the other way around. Virologist Ian McKay, of the University of Queensland, agrees that the virus is far more likely to spread from people to pets, and that the odds for transmission from dog to human is quite small. 

The patient's not so catty after all

As for cats, ABC News explains that they're also in the "can't pass on the virus" camp, though they can also test positive for low levels of coronavirus, courtesy of their owners. However, Julia Hollingsworth of CNN says that current evidence indicates that pet animals are unlikely to be sick from the virus, even if they do get infected.

It's worth noting that the 2003 Sars outbreak featured a handful of both cats and dogs that "tested positive for the virus," the BBC reports. However, they didn't transmit it to people, or even to members of their own species. So, at the moment it looks like the new coronavirus, which is officially called SARS-CoV-2, hasn't figured out our feline and canine friends any better than its predecessor. 

If they get it, it's probably from you

Don't worry, people: Science hasn't discovered any evidence to suggest that whole COVID-19 thing is a joint canine/feline plot to take over the world, by coughing all over you. However, the BBC reminds us that, coronavirus or not, you should still totally wash your hands after handling them. Adorable as the kitten cuddling up to you may be, it can still play host to things like salmonella and E.coli, which absolutely can transmit between our pets and us. Still, just treat these animals with the same basic hygiene you always do, and you're golden. Probably best to avoid coughing on them, too, even though it appears they don't really get sick from the coronavirus. It's common courtesy.