There have been some cases reported of cats, dogs and minks being infected with the novel coronavirus. Animals in the Netherlands were also infected with the virus. In almost all cases, the pet owners were also ill and tested positive for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It is possible that the pets caught the virus from their owners. Since there are only a few infected pets (worldwide), we assume that there is a minimal risk that a pet can be infected by the owner.

Cats 

Research shows that cats can become ill from the novel coronavirus. After infection, cats can become ill; this is especially applicable to young cats. Like humans, cats develop respiratory symptoms. They may also develop stomach and intestinal problems. In the Netherlands, antibodies against the novel coronavirus have been found in a few cats. This means that the cats were previously infected with the virus.

When cats become ill, they may be able to spread the virus from their mouth/throat and via their faeces. There is no clear evidence at this time that cats can infect each other. The possibility has been demonstrated in a research setting, but it is unknown to what extent this can take place under natural conditions. This requires more research. At this time, the risk of cat-to-cat infection is estimated to be low.

Dogs and other cuddly pets 

Dogs can become infected with the novel coronavirus. Most likely, a dog cannot transmit the virus to another dog. There is no evidence that a dog that is infected with the novel coronavirus can transmit it to a human. Antibodies against the novel coronavirus have been detected in one dog in the Netherlands. This means that the dog was previously infected with the virus.

We also know that hamsters and ferrets can become infected with the novel coronavirus and become ill. Research is being done to determine whether that also applies to rabbits.

Animal-to-human infection

In the Netherlands, there have been a few cases of possible animal-to-human transmission. These infections took place on mink farms where minks were infected with the virus. Employees working at the farms took care of the minks when it was not yet known that the animals were infected. Several of the employees may have contracted the virus from the minks. At farm where minks have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, employees must use personal protective equipment.

It is very unlikely that household pets will become infected with the virus and play a role in spreading the virus. That risk is currently much smaller than the chance that people will infect each other.

Recommendations for owners of cuddly pets

As a precaution, we are offering these recommendations for interacting with all pets that are cuddled.

People in the pet’s household do not have any symptoms
In that case, there is no need to take measures for contact with pets (including cuddly pets). Good hygiene is still important. The pet can go outside as usual.

The pet is ill, but people in the household do not have any symptoms
In that case, we assume that the pet’s illness is not a COVID-19 infection. Good hygiene is still important. The pet can go outside as usual. Consult a veterinarian if necessary.

People in the household have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, but the pet is not ill
Although it is very unlikely that your pet will become ill, some recommendations are provided as a precaution. If you have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 (nasal cold, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and/or fever), get tested and avoid intensive cuddling and contact with the pet until the test results are known. If possible, arrange for another member of the household who is not ill to take care of the pet. Good hygiene is still important. The pet can go outside as usual.

People in the household have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, and the pet is ill
If people in the household have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 (nasal cold, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and/or fever), get tested. If the pet also becomes ill, there is a small chance that the animal has been infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The chance that people will catch the virus from the pet is much smaller than the chance that they will catch it from other people in their household.

It is advisable for everyone in the household to get tested and to avoid intensive contact with the sick animal. If possible, arrange for another member of the household who is not ill to take care of the pet. Good hygiene is very important. Do not let the pet walk around outside without a leash. If the animal has severe shortness of breath and/or diarrhoea, call the veterinarian. The vet will assess whether the animal’s symptoms indicate COVID-19.

People with symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 should stay at home as much as possible. If their pet also develops symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 (respiratory or intestinal symptoms), the advice is to keep the animal indoors (as much as possible). Do not let these animals roam freely outside. Make sure that these animals do not go to any locations where many animals are together in the same space (play centre, kennel, shelter).

Other animals and COVID-19 

Research shows that pigs, chickens and ducks cannot catch the novel coronavirus. As far as we know now, other animals such as cows, sheep, goats, horses and rats probably cannot catch it either. Ferrets, and therefore also minks, are susceptible to infection with COVID-19. The novel coronavirus was detected at a large number of mink farms; since then, the minks have been culled. Researchers are investigating how the animals at the mink farms were infected.

What is RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment doing?  

In the Netherlands, we are alert to new and existing diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Just as humans can catch infectious diseases, animals can also become infected. A small proportion of infectious diseases that animals can catch are also infectious to humans; these are known as zoonoses. Sometimes animals can also catch infectious diseases from humans; these are known as anthropozoonoses. 

For that reason, we are also looking at the extent to which animals can become infected with the novel coronavirus and play a role in spreading the virus. RIVM is working with various professionals, including experts in healthcare and veterinary medicine.

For more information, go to: 
 OneHealth topic RIVM
www.dibevo.nl
www.zoogdiervereniging.nl 

Questions about pets

Can my pet become infected with the novel coronavirus?

There have been cases of pets infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide, including a dog and some cats in the Netherlands. In almost all cases, the pet owners were also ill and tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The chance of a pet becoming infected and then infecting another animal or human is very small compared to human-to-human infection.

What about my pet if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Although the chance of pets becoming infected with the coronavirus is minimal, if you do have symptoms, it is advisable to avoid intensive contact with pets (don’t let them lick you or cuddle with you, but you can stroke their fur). You should preferably leave the care of pets to people without symptoms, who should observe the general hygiene measures for handling pets (wash hands regularly and do not let the pets lick the people caring for them). Dogs of COVID-19 patients and people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 can be walked by people without symptoms, and are permitted to have contact with other dogs while they are being walked. The spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide at this time is caused by human-to-human transmission.

Can I walk the dog?

If you do not have any symptoms, such as a nasal cold, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and/or fever, you can walk your dog as usual. If you do have one or more of these symptoms, ask someone else to walk your dog. Anyone who walks the dog should comply with the general preventive measure to keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Dogs are permitted to have contact with other dogs while they are being walked.

Are there animals in the Netherlands that are infected with the novel coronavirus?

There have been a few cases reported of animals that have the novel coronavirus. Antibodies against the novel coronavirus were detected in one dog. This means that the dog was previously infected with the virus. The dog was probably infected by its owner, who has COVID-19. The virus was also detected at mink farms where animals were showing respiratory and intestinal symptoms. Researchers are investigating how the animals at the mink farms were infected. Antibodies for the virus were also found in several cats that were present at one of these farms. Additional protection measures have been implemented at the infected farms. Research on and around the farms shows that they do not pose a risk of spreading the virus to humans.

Can animals transmit the novel coronavirus to humans?

In the Netherlands, there have been several reports of possible animal-to-human transmission. These infections took place on mink farms where minks were infected with the virus. Several of the employees may have contracted the virus from the minks. Since the virus could potentially circulate at a mink farm for a longer period, these farms will be culled.

It is very unlikely that household pets will become infected with the virus and play a role in spreading the virus. That risk is currently much smaller than the chance that people will infect each other.