This fall, COVID-19 cases are rising again in the US.1 Hospitalizations and deaths both continue to increase – which makes it extra difficult since your state might not have to report its numbers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So since we’re susceptible to infections, what about our pets? Can pets get COVID? And if yes, how can you manage it?

In this post, we’ll answer your questions about dogs, cats, and the coronavirus below – so you can enjoy peace of mind with your furry friend. We also cover how activity tracking helps you to take an active role in your pet’s health and keep them healthy for the long term.

So, can pets get COVID?

Yes – despite early reports, it’s now clear that both dogs and cats can be infected by COVID-19. There have been several cases documented in the United States and elsewhere. However, it doesn’t seem to happen often. And the good news is that most pets infected with COVID-19 have only a mild illness and usually fully recover2.

Can dogs & cats get COVID from people?

Yes. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 virus can spread from people to animals.3 This is usually a result of your dog or cat coming in close contact with someone already infected by the virus. So besides keeping your family and loved ones safe, do keep in mind that your pets are also vulnerable.

Can pets infect humans with COVID?

According to the CDC, there’s a low risk of people getting infected by the virus from pets. There’s also no evidence that the coronavirus can spread to people through your pet’s skin or fur. However, make sure you’re still staying on top of your pet’s grooming routine and using pet-friendly products to keep them clean and infection-free.

Because in general, it is possible for some coronaviruses to be transmitted from infected animals to humans – the outbreak of COVID-19 likely originated in bats after all. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, there is some evidence to suggest that minks may have been able to pass on the coronavirus to humans.4

However coronavirus is most likely to be spread human to human, when germs are passed on via droplets while coughing, sneezing or speaking at a close distance. So the risk of animals passing on the virus to humans is now considered to be very low. In theory, it’s not impossible – but is is unlikely that your dog or cat will pass on coronavirus to you.

Still – the WHO still recommends washing hands with soap and water after contact with house pets, just to be on the safe side. That can also protect you from nasty bacteria like salmonella or e-coli. We know it’s tough, but this means it’s best to resist the urge to cuddle and comfort your furry friend in case they’re sick.

Now that we’ve answered the question, can pets get COVID, you may be wondering what you need to do in case your pet falls ill.

COVID symptoms in dogs & cats

It can be hard to spot COVID-19 in dogs due to its symptoms being quite similar to the flu, as well as the fact that dogs and cats may experience a symptom-free version. However some symptoms experienced by a dog or cat with the coronavirus may be:

What to do if you think your pet has COVID

If you suspect your dog or cat may have COVID, it’s best to

  • First call your vet for recommendations
  • Avoid taking your pet to the vet if you are sick with COVID-19 yourself
  • Avoid cleaning your pet with products like disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, hand sanitizer, or cleaning wipes.5
  • Keep cats and dogs who test positive for COVID-19 indoors
  • Monitor your pet’s symptoms – especially how active they are
  • Consult your vet if you think your pet’s condition is getting worse

Your vet may recommend isolating your pet at home or another treatment plan. According to the CDC, your pet can resume normal activities if they show no symptoms for at least 72 hours without medical care and it’s been two weeks since their last positive test. Or if follow up tests for an infection are negative.

⚠️ Never surrender, euthanize, or abandon your pet in case they do get infected with COVID. The chances of them spreading the virus are low and you’re unlikely to get infected by them.

If you’ve tested positive for COVID and your pet becomes sick, it’s better not to take your pet to the vet by yourself. Rather, it’s better to call your vet, let them know you’re sick, and request if they can advise you over the phone or email. Your vet should be able to provide you some simple, practical steps for caring for your sick pet.

Do I need to tell someone if my dog or cat has COVID-19?

Your vet will be able to provide you with information in case your pet has coronavirus. But do you need to report your dog’s case of coronavirus to the authorities? The discussion so far has, understandably, been focused on humans and coronavirus. However, there’s talk in Germany about whether to make it mandatory to report a positive test. That would mean a veterinarian would have to notify the relevant authorities. The belief is that this would give experts a clearer picture of infection risk among animals.

For now, no other country seems to be trying out a similar approach – but it’s something we’re keeping our eye on.

So if your dog or cat has COVID, treat it the same way as if you’ve tested positive yourself. Inform your friends, family, or anyone else you know your pet might have interacted with. (So they can immediately get tested and seek treatment.)

The CDC doesn’t recommend routinely testing your pets for COVID. So if you’ve noticed any concerning signs, keep your vet in the loop. (Especially to rule out any other, seasonal respiratory illnesses.)

Can pets get COVID?

Did you know? Researchers in Dortmund are currently working on an electronic “Dog Nose” that can sniff out COVID-19.6 It’s a device with sensitive, dog-inspired sensors that can tell from your breath if you might have the virus.

What to do if I need to isolate myself?

As a pet parent, it’s good to prep ahead for your four-legged friend as well as for yourself. Here’s some advice from RSPCA UK:

“While you are ill, another member of your household will need to take care of your animals and they will need to follow good hygiene practices washing their hands thoroughly after contact and any of their items e.g. bedding, food bowls.

If you’re living on your own, or need support outside of your household, it’s best to designate friends, family members or neighbors who can help in advance. But if that’s not an option, you can look into trustworthy pet sitting sites like Petsit or Pawshake. Community Facebook groups are also worth looking into.

Need support? You can always contact animal charities like ASPCA or Dog’s Trust UK to get some guidance.

Don’t forget: Have all your dog or cat’s medication and diet needs, veterinary details – and any other important information – all in one place so you can share quickly if needed.

Do pets need to go into isolation as well?

Depending on your pet’s symptoms, your vet might advise you to isolate your pet at home. And as with humans, the isolation period is 2 weeks. But if isolating at home isn’t an option, consider finding a veterinary facility near you that offers isolation units.

If you’re able to care for your pet at home, keep them in a secure, familiar environment. Do your best not to let them out, except to get medical care. Treat them like another sick family member at home and take the same precautions. (Like wearing a mask, using gloves when interacting with your pet, and washing your hands frequently.) And importantly, avoid putting a mask on your dog or cat – since it might actually be harmful for them.

Above all, do your best not to let your pet wander. If they roam outside, it’s possible they might infect your neighbor’s pets – or other stray animals.

If you’ve got an outdoor dog or an outdoor cat, you might find them in the middle of an escape attempt or two. So consider investing in a dedicated pet GPS tracker which helps you track them in real-time – no matter where they are.

Always know where your pets are

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your pet too.

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💡 Isolating indoors with your pet doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Plus, it gives you some one on one time with your four-legged buddy, which is good for both of you. Have fun teaching your dog new commands indoors or getting your cat to exercise. Staying busy and doing things together will keep both of you in a better mood and is great for your well-being.

Should your pet get the COVID vaccine?

Animals around the world (including wild cats and apes like orangutans) have gotten the COVID vaccine. But what about dogs and cats? While researchers around the world have some promising results, most vets don’t consider it necessary to vaccinate pets against COVID.7

Even the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not currently approving any pet vaccines for COVID.8 Why? Because there’s simply little to no evidence that dogs and cats play such a major role in spreading the virus. So any such vaccine wouldn’t bring much value from a public health standpoint. Pharmaceutical companies can still research and develop such vaccines – but without a license or permit, they can’t sell or distribute them.

How activity tracking can help you stay on top of your pet’s health

An infected dog or cat might show symptoms like lethargyor they might not have any symptoms at all. It’s why vets recommend tracking your pet’s activity levels, or how much they can keep up with you. This can help you catch on to a dip in their regular activity early on – and get your dog or cat the help they need before their health takes a turn for the worse.

Dog running outside wearing Tractive GPS dog tracker in background, app in foreground

💡With regular activity tracking, you can get a picture of your pet’s activity levels over time. And with this health data at hand, you can more easily catch on to a change in your dog or cat’s behaviors – and take action early on.

Your pet might not show any COVID symptoms immediately – or at all. But with Tractive’s Wellness Monitoring, you can keep track of how active they’ve been over a period of time. Helping you get your dog or cat enough exercise to keep them healthy and strong. And helping you get them to a vet if you notice a change in their regular behaviors.

Activity tracking can even save your pet’s life

Even a pet who seems normal and healthy might still be struggling with a sickness or infection. Both sick dogs and sick cats tend to mask signs of illness and pain. (Due to their evolutionary instincts.) So you might miss out on their COVID symptoms until they’ve worsened.

But with your pet’s activity tracking data at hand, you’re more likely to have a productive conversation with your vet. Helping you get your dog or cat the care they need right when they need it.

“With the Tractive GPS, I found out one night that she’d only made one little trip to the park, slept all night – and didn’t really do much during the day.

So I decided to check her up to see if she was sick – or had something else going on. When I picked her up, the pus oozed over my hand from the abscess bursting!

Without Tractive, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I would still see her walk around to drink and feed and think everything is okay. I might only have noticed when I didn’t see her stroll over for a whole day.

At which point, she’d probably have been dangerously sick.

We went to the vet a few hours later – she had a serious fever, a big abscess, and was pretty sick already. So we got it in time.

A whole week of antibiotics – and now she’s herself again.

Tractive is also very handy for when you need to give your pets their medication. All I have to do is check where she is and call her over to give her the antibiotics.

– Cissy V, Netherlands
Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“It can be easy to miss out on changes in your dog’s or cat’s regular activity – or just if they’re on the move more or less than usual. So we’ve set up Activity Degradation alerts for when your pet’s active minutes drop significantly. They can help you intervene in a situation where your pet might be struggling with an infection or even just pain.”

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet sitter

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Stay informed & keep your pets safe – no matter the season

It’s been a while since the dark days of the early pandemic – but it’s always smart to stay informed and careful. Especially when it comes to your dog or cat who relies entirely on you to keep them safe.

So keep yourself up to date on the latest guidelines9, keep washing your hands – and take an active role in your pet’s health by monitoring their activity. Which means keeping your dog or cat healthy and happy no matter what season we’re in.

Here are some more tips on how to keep your pet healthy during COVID season from Dr. Lera from Heron Lakes Animal Hospital:

We’re always doing our best to keep this guide up to date. However, this is a fast-moving topic, so we’ll consistently update it as new information arises. This also lets us make sure it’s accurate, safe and helpful to you.

If you found this article helpful, share it with your fellow pet parents. So you can build a healthy community and keep each other informed – for pets and pet parents both.