Pets cannot spread coronavirus, but they can bring joy during stressful times

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Some people are concerned that pets can catch or spread the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. To this point, research has shown no evidence that pets can spread the disease to other animals or to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection and other human and animal health organizations.

Some of the first people to contract the virus in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, reportedly had a link to the live animal market, suggesting an animal-to-person spread. But current testing has shown no such connection — neither from animals to people, nor from people to animals, said Dr. Diana Coulon, a veterinarian and an LSU AgCenter instructor.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, thousands of canine and feline specimens have been tested and shown no positive results.

“Pets tested in the U.S. have all tested negative so far,” Coulon said. “The major caution at this time is that if someone is infected with the virus and would sneeze or cough on their pet, then the pet’s body or fur could become a fomite — a surface like doorknobs or faucets that could be contaminated.”

Here are some tips from the veterinary association:

People ill with the coronavirus should limit their contact with animals. Don’t share food, kiss or hug pets, and have someone else take care of them.
Keep pets well-groomed. Regularly clean their food and water bowls as well as bedding material and toys.
After interacting with pets, take sanitary measures such as properly washing your hands to greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.

The association is encouraging veterinarians to do more telemedicine services and limit or discontinue non-emergency surgeries and procedures at this time, Coulon said.

Studies have shown that pets can contribute to a person’s overall health by lowering stress and bringing happiness to their owners, according to the CDC. Therapy dogs, for example, are used to help residents of assisted living homes and to relieve the stress of people involved in traumatic events.

It’s helpful for owners to understand that pets can help comfort them during the disruptive threat of the coronavirus, Coulon said.