There's no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of coronavirus to humans, but precautions can help keep people and their pets safe, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Monday.
"Based on limited information available to date, the risk of animals, including pets, spreading Covid-19 to people is considered to be low," CDC official Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh said during a briefing Monday.
Evidence suggests that Covid-19 likely originated in animals before becoming widespread among humans.
"As of the middle of January, we're aware of 187 animals from 22 countries with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection," Behravesh said, noting those numbers do not include mink on mink farms. She added that no animal deaths have yet been linked to the virus.
The CDC is closely tracking research on coronavirus infections in animals and has categorized some animals based off their risk of infection. Animals that are highly susceptible to the virus include cats, hamsters, non-human primates, rabbits, mink and deer, Behravesh said.
Behravesh said that companion animals, especially cats and dogs, are the leading group of animal species impacted by coronavirus.
While animal-to-human transmission risk is low, people can spread coronavirus to pets, Behravesh said.
The CDC recommends people treat pets the same way they would human family members to protect them from Covid-19, by limiting contact with those outside the household. The agency advises keeping cats inside and preventing other pets from roaming freely. Masks should not be put on pets, as they could cause harm.
Infected people should avoid contact with pets, meaning no kissing, snuggling or sleeping in the same bed, the CDC says. In fact, people who have coronavirus should try to arrange for another household member to take care of pets. If that's not possible, the CDC says people should wear masks when interacting with their pets.
People who suspect their pets may have coronavirus should consult with a veterinarian. Behravesh noted that among 93 cases of Covid-19 in cats and dogs in the US, 53% showed no symptoms. The most common symptoms reported in animals have been respiratory signs, like coughing or sneezing. Other symptoms reported include fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.
Pets who have tested positive for coronavirus should be isolated away from humans and other animals, Behravesh said.
There's no evidence that pets are carrying or spreading coronavirus on their skin or hair, and it's important not to wipe or bathe pets with chemical disinfectants, Behravesh said.
"Pet poison controls have actually had an increase in calls due to these types of exposures among pets," she said.
The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs for the treatment or prevention of Covid-19 in animals, Behravesh noted.