COVID-19 and Our Pets

By: Tyler Foreman, DVM

TVMA Member
Rowlett, TX

Published August 2020

The coronavirus of 2019 has caused unfathomable disruption to our daily lives including the loss of life and livelihood for millions of our fellow citizens. One of the areas of good news from this saga is that COVID-19 is unknown to cause any substantial illness in our household pets, specifically dogs and cats. Cats and dogs can catch the virus from humans, though that is still incredibly rare. Clinical symptoms in affected domestic pets range from very mild upper respiratory illness, such as coughing, to having no symptoms at all.

Should you find yourself exposed and testing positive to the coronavirus, you do not have to dispense with your pets. Minimize contact with your pets as much as possible while under medical quarantine or while ill. If possible and safe, enlist the help of someone in the household to assume care for the pets. When required to interact with your pets, practice good hygiene both before and after handling them. Though the coronavirus has spared our feline and canine housemates from illness, it has not prevented them from feeling some of the very same disruptions in their daily lives that their human caretakers have experienced.

Much like us humans, a fair number of dogs and cats have had a substantial change in their social lives. Consider that many owners are home more hours now than our animal companions imagined possible. Some kitties might prefer social solitude. Trips to the dog park, walks with neighborhood friends and the like have all been curtailed or eliminated to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. The good news is that our increased presence is typically a positive for most pets, thus helping to overcome the considerable disruption the virus has otherwise caused. However, if you have noticed any unusual behavior from one of your pets, try and determine if a disruption to their routine is part of the problem. Do not hesitate to enlist your veterinarian to help track down anything you are noticing out of the ordinary.

Because our pets depend on us for the basics in life (food, shelter, medical care, etc.), any economic hardship a family faces might impact our pets too. If your family must make sacrifices to get through this difficult financial time, consult your veterinarian to identify ideas for modifying expenses with minimal negative influence on non-human household members. Current challenges may seem unique to your household; however, chances are your animal expert has recommendations garnered from conversations with other owners or perhaps professional colleagues. The changes we have endured as a society to protect our most vulnerable population from COVID-19 are not subsiding in the immediate future. However, our pets are incredibly adaptable, and even with sizable alterations to their daily lives, they easily can continue to provide a source of companionship and comfort during this trying time.

Tyler Foreman, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Foreman practices at Rowlett Veterinary Clinic in Rowlett.

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