The CDC Has Updated COVID-19 Social Distancing Guidelines for Pets—Here’s What It Means

updated Apr 29, 2020
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As information surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to change as experts learn more, it can be tough to know how to best keep your household safe. But with growing evidence that animals—including household pets—can become infected with this novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated their social distancing guidelines to include animals. Here’s what it all means.

The CDC’s new guidelines, updated on April 28, recommend that social distancing, along with self-isolating after known exposure or exhibiting symptoms of the virus, extends to your furry friends at home. The federal agency suggests that people “treat pets as you would other human family members—do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”

While at this time, animals do not “play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” reports of pets testing positive for the virus have popped up in recent weeks. A pug in North Carolina is the first dog in the U.S. to test positive, per CNN, and officials recently announced that two cats tested positive in New York. Back in March, two household dogs in Hong Kong tested positive, and eight tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York also came down with respiratory illnesses later confirmed to be COVID-19.

The way COVID-19 affects animals seems to vary as much as it can in humans, so the CDC recommends keeping pets indoors when possible, and walking dogs on a leash while maintaining at least six feet of distance from people and other animals when outside. You’ll want to skip dog parks amid the pandemic, too, and forgo greetings from dog-loving neighbors for the time being, as well.

At this point, it seems that slowing the spread of the virus by limiting physical interaction with others—including their pets—is the best way to keep you and your four-legged friends safe. If you are sick, you should avoid interacting with your pets, including “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding,” per the CDC, who recommends having another family member care for your pet while you’re isolating. (If you must interact with them, they recommend a cloth face mask and washing hands before and after your interactions.)

If you suspect your pet does have an illness, call your vet and have someone else that is not sick take them to get checked out.

For more information, check out the CDC’s FAQ on COVID-19 and animals.