How to keep pets safe in quarantine



While the heightened threat of the coronavirus to certain segments of the population, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, has been well-documented, one other group may be at risk: our pets.

On April 5, the Bronx Zoo reported that one of its Malayan tigers had tested positive for COVID-19, and it later confirmed that four other tigers and three African lions also had the virus. While all of the big cats are now in good condition, this incident contributed to rising fears among pet owners that their animals may be vulnerable to infection.

Scientific research on this question is currently limited. According to a team at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, cats are susceptible to the virus and may be able to spread it to other felines, but dogs are less likely to be infected. However, none of the cats with the virus showed symptoms of illness, and it’s also unclear whether or not they can spread it to people.

While the CDC believes that animals do not play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus, it has issued some guidance regarding pets. Pet owners should follow these guidelines, even if the risk of infection is small, to protect the animals they care about. 

The agency is advising pet owners not to let their pets interact with other humans and animals outside the household, and to maintain six feet of distance from others when walking dogs. The CDC also warns that people sick with Covid-19 should restrict contact with their pets, just as they would with people.

Animal behaviorists have focused on the psychological toll of the pandemic. They caution that some dogs, who’ve grown accustomed to the constant presence of their owners, could experience separation anxiety once people return to work and school. Experts such as animal psychologist Dr. Robert Mugford recommend gradually acclimating pets with short periods of isolation so the impact won’t be so severe once the patterns of day-to-day life resume.

Ultimately, pet owners should proceed with all the caution necessary when dealing with this disease. After all, our pets put their lives in our hands: the very least we can do is protect them the best we can.