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Can pets get infected with the coronavirus?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been detected in cats, dogs, ferrets, mink and even in tigers and lions. But is the virus also dangerous to them and can they infect their owners? What pet lovers need to know now.

Low risk of infection for animals

Pets infected with COVID-19 from their owners? Such cases occur worldwide, but are rare. It hits cats and ferrets more often than dogs. A study from Italy, for example, shows that of 540 dogs and 277 cats that were tested for the antigen of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its antibodies in the blood in spring 2020, 3.4 percent of the dogs and 3.9 percent of the Cats carried antibodies, but the virus itself could not be detected in any of the animals examined. From this, the researchers conclude that the viruses can only be detected in pets for a short time. All animals examined either lived under one roof with corona patients or were at home in areas such as Lombardy, which were particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
Cats in particular have symptoms similar to humans, such as diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and shallow breathing. A few days after the onset of symptoms, her general condition improves again. Animal deaths from infection are not yet known. Only one dog from the United States died after testing positive shortly before. However, he was also suffering from cancer.

Can people get the coronavirus from pets?

So far there is no evidence that a pet infected its owner, according to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI), the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health. There are indications that it was the other way around on a Dutch and Danish mink farm - that is, workers on the mink farm could have infected the animals. A large number of animals that are susceptible to the virus live here in a confined space. Nevertheless, according to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, pets probably do not play a significant role in the spread of the virus. Human-to-human transmission is crucial for the pandemic.

As an infected person, can I pet my dog?

If you want to be on the safe side, you better do without it. The FLI recommends reducing contact between pets and a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2 to a minimum and wearing mouth and nose protection. A mask for the animal is not necessary, as the danger comes from the infected person. A mask is also a torture for the animal. If possible, other people in the household or neighbors should look after the pet and take the dog for a walk.
Even without infection, the usual hygiene regulations should be observed in the pandemic: Avoid too close contact with pets - especially licking the face. Wash your hands with soap after petting, cleaning the pet bowl and litter box, or removing dog poop after going for a walk. Please do not give your pet to the shelter, there is no reason to do so.

Precautions for dog sitters

The FLI recommends that anyone walking the dog of a corona-infected person should use their own leash if possible. Wash hands after walking. Be careful, but: the risk does not come from the dog, but rather from its infected owner.

What to do if your dog or cat show symptoms of corona?

If your animal shows strong symptoms and you or another contact person are infected, testing for an infection with SARS-CoV-2 may be advisable in individual cases - especially to gain further information on infection scenarios. In this case, you should notify the health department, which will contact the responsible veterinary office. The test procedure is the same as for humans. Positive tests are now notifiable in order to gain an overview of the infection process in animals. However, they have no consequence for the animal or the owner. Even if an animal is infected, there is no need to take it out of the family or even put it to sleep.

Can farm animals get infected?

Cattle are less likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigs are not infected. The same applies to pets: So far, there is no evidence that farm animals play an important role in the spread of the virus or as a source of infection for humans.