Hillary Butler May’21

Ask The Vet

Can COVID-19 Affect My Pet?

By Dr. Hillary Butler DVM MRCVS

For over a year now our daily news has included mention of COVID-19. This coronavirus has been on all of our minds, and the safety of our loved ones a high priority. As variants start to surge, especially in the Toronto area, re-emerging concerns about the disease are common and clients often have questions as to whether their dogs and cats can be affected. 

Like we have discovered over the last year, the progression of science and findings about COVID-19 are rapid and ever evolving. With dogs and cats being, understandably, a lower priority on the COVID-19 research front, we are still getting new information about how this virus can affect our pets. We do, however, have a reasonable amount of data to hopefully set an owner’s mind at ease. 

What we do know is that pets can contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. This may be relatively common actually in households where owners have active infections. However, this transmission is almost exclusively from person to pet, not the other way around.  

Cats are much better hosts for this virus than dogs are, which shouldn’t be surprising considering there were cases of cats getting sick back when the original SARS virus was an issue in 2003. So, while dogs don’t seem to pose risk of transmission, it does seem likely that cats can pass this disease to other cats. The risk of spread to people is only theoretical and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) advises at this time there is no evidence to suggest animals play any significant role in transmission of the virus.  Therefore, if your cat has contracted SARS-CoV-2, it’s from someone in your home who is also an infinitely more likely source to you. In short, owners have little need to be concerned about contracting the disease from their companion animals.

When it comes to how pets can be affected by COVID-19, that answer is also promising. Dogs seem to be relatively resistant to clinical disease. If they do get sick, it seems to be transient and may be represented by a slight loss of appetite or depression. Because cats tend to be more susceptible to these sorts of viruses, they can in fact show signs of upper respiratory infection, but again these cases are usually very mild and self limiting.  

In general, pets pose very little risk to people, and if they do contract SARS-CoV-2 from their owners they don’t tend to develop very severe disease, if anything at all. With new variants becoming the overwhelming majority of cases, we may still get more information moving forward, but it is likely that these findings will remain similar. If you have COVID-19 and you believe your pet may have symptoms, please call your local veterinary clinic for advice on your pet’s particular case. For updated and reliable information on pets and COVID-19, please visit www.wormsandgermsblog.com

~ Hillary Butler currently practices
in Whitby. She can be found at