As the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), continues its advance across the globe, we know many of you are concerned about the health and safety of your family—including your pets. Because we at Rover are pet lovers too, we understand and share your concerns. We wanted to do our part to help answer some of the questions we are hearing from the Rover community and pet parents about dogs and the coronavirus.
In consultation with Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Veterinarian and Rover Dog People Panel member, and in accordance with the latest guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), we’ve put together this resource for pet parents to address some of the questions you may have, from disease transmission details to how to keep your pet occupied while you try to get some work done, and to simply provide reassurance and the facts about dogs and COVID-19.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the disease and update this article with new information as it becomes available.
Important: This resource is intended for educational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for a veterinary examination.
For now, let’s move on to the big question.
Can Pets Get the Coronavirus?
According to the PHAC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be shared between people and our dogs, cats, or other companion animals. As of 2020/03/16, the PHAC states:
There is currently no evidence to suggest that this virus is circulating in animals in Canada. It is possible that some types of animals may be able to get infected with COVID-19, but it is not yet clear whether they would show symptoms.
There are still many unknowns about COVID-19 and this is an area that remains to be studied and understood.
Until we know more, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a pet or other animal:
- Avoid close contact with your pets. Do not snuggle or kiss them, or let them lick you, sit on your lap, or sleep in your bed
- Avoid coughing and sneezing on your animals
- Have another member of your household care for your animals. If this is not possible, always wash your hands before touching or feeding them
- Limit your animal’s contact with other people and animals. This may mean keeping them indoors
Pets and Coronavirus: FAQ
We asked Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, a Veterinarian and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, some frequently asked questions about pets and the coronavirus.
Should I be concerned about my dog or cat picking up the novel coronavirus infection?
At this point, there does not appear to be any definitive evidence that pets can become sick from COVID-19. However, given how rapidly the situation is evolving, so too will our understanding of the virus and its potential impact and risks. So far, there were reports of a Pomeranian in Hong Kong who was tested for coronavirus specifically because the pet’s owner was ill from COVID-19. The dog tested only weak positive and thus far, has not shown any unusual symptoms but was quarantined out of an abundance of caution and will continue to be re-tested. Veterinarians continue to advise pet owners to be vigilant but not to panic!
Should I be cleaning my dog/cat more often? Should I sanitize my pet in any way?
Although there has been no evidence to suggest any infected pets can transmit illness to people, the focus so far has been on infection control for owners, namely proper hand washing techniques. To be fair, pet owners should already be washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or using hand sanitizer before and after every interaction with the pets to reduce the transmission risk for other more common parasites that pets can carry, like roundworms and Giardia. Food and water bowls should also be washed frequently and separately from human items, using a high heat setting. Given that COVID-19 can reside on surfaces, theoretically if a coronavirus-positive individual coughs or sneezes near their pet, their coat can harbor virus particles, so bathing is reasonable but preventative measures like keeping pets separated from ill or infected individuals, good hand washing procedures, avoiding kissing your pets or sharing food with them are most effective to reduce the potential viral load.
Should I change my behavior around my cat/dog while this disease is going around?
Even before the COVID-19 situation arose, there have always been precautions that pet owners should be taking to keep themselves and their pets safe from infectious diseases. Preventative measures should include hand washing before and after handling pets and advising everyone (kids, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions especially) to avoid touching their face, mouth, nose, or eyes after interacting with pets. Just as Public Health has advised us to avoid contact with people infected or exposed to coronavirus, pets should also be kept away from infected or at-risk individuals. Pets of infected pet owners should be confined or isolated to be cautious, just as other members of the household would be. Pet owners who are symptomatic for COVID-19 should avoid all direct contact: touching, snuggling, kissing, and hugging their pets. A single family member can be designated to perform pet care duties, if possible. If an infected person must care for their own pets, strict hygiene procedures should be followed and individuals should wear a facemask during interactions with pets.
Should I be afraid of petting other dogs, going to the dog park, or gathering in large groups of other pets?
Pet owners should be cautious, but don’t panic! Just as we all have been advised to practice social distancing with each other, I would advise similar behaviours around pets and around other pet owners. Avoid petting other dogs and always wash your hands before and after contact with pets and people. Pet owners should not necessarily be afraid of dog parks per se, but try to go at off-peak hours to limit interactions with groups of people – even more so than pets. When in doubt, avoid crowded or popular pet areas. Dogs and cats can be exercised as much as possible on your own property or in less crowded outdoor spaces.
Working at Home with Dogs: How to Stay Active
Health authorities are taking community-based measures to help prevent the spread of the virus. Even if you’re not under quarantine due to an infection with or exposure to COVID-19, you’re likely limiting your activities and you may be working from home.
Going to the dog park might not be a great idea right now, but daily walks are advisable—both for your dog’s activity level and your own! While your dog may be thrilled to have you around more often, they’re also likely to get bored or restless. Check out these fun, easy ways to stay active with your dog indoors.
If you are homebound for the foreseeable future and looking for ways to get extra snuggly with your pets, try your hand at dog massage. It’s a great bonding activity and can help reduce stress for both you and your pet.
Pet-Safe Cleaning Tips
Washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and sanitizing surfaces: these recommendations are important in any home, with or without pets.
There’s no need to use special “sanitizing” products on your pet. In fact, hand sanitizer, with its high alcohol content, should not be applied to your dog (or cat). Instead, an ordinary bath with pet-safe soap or shampoo will suffice.
Pet-specific paw wipes are handy for reducing dirt and wiping away potential allergens like pollen and dander. They will not kill germs like the coronavirus, however (just as human baby wipes cannot).
See our recommendations for our favorite pet shampoos here.
Services on Rover and the Coronavirus
Rover continues to monitor updates from the PHAC and the WHO and follow their specific recommendations (you can read our official statement to our community on the new coronavirus here). Our team is staying current on all developments surrounding the new coronavirus and will continue to provide resources to keep our community informed and up to date. As this is an evolving situation, please follow updates posted by the PHAC and the WHO.
If you are feeling sick, please consider whether you should cancel any services on Rover to reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. For instructions on how to cancel a booking, read this article from the Rover Help Center. You can also contact our customer service team at 1-438-799-5595 if you have questions about cancellation or booking policies.
The Silver Lining? Pets Reduce Stress
We know the news is heavy these days and can feel overwhelming, but Rover has a secret weapon: Pets are awesome to be around in times of stress!
Other great things about dogs?
- They can’t help falling in love with you.
- They have the best Instagram accounts!
- They’re the best source of feel-good news.
- Every. Single. One. Is. Cute!
- They’re really smart.
- They stimulate the mind.
- Dogs are basically just…the best.
And that’s positive news we can all use.