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Can my dog catch Covid-19 at the park — and can it pass the virus on to me?

19 August 2020 - 12:39 By Sanet Oberholzer
To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk, says the US CDC.
To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk, says the US CDC.
Image: 123RF/Bulent Baris

Now that restrictions on parks have been lifted and you can take your dog for a walk, your furry friend will have the chance to run, play and socialise with other dogs and their owners. This raises a new concern: is your pet at risk of catching Covid-19 and what does this mean for you?

A number of sources, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have confirmed cases of dogs and cats that have tested positive for Covid-19 after coming into contact with infected humans.

That said, Covid-19 still appears to be spread primarily through human-to-human contact. According to Dr Leon de Bruyn, president of the South African Veterinary Association, it doesn’t seem as though infected pets are likely to infect their human owners.

 We have no proven cases of humans contracting Covid-19 from animals. The dogs that tested positive were as a result of contamination by virus from their Covid-19 positive owners. Dogs do not appear to allow the virus to replicate and circulate within their systems,” he explains.

According to information on the CDC’s website, there is also no evidence that Covid-19 can spread to humans via their pets’ skin or fur.

When it comes to cats, De Bruyn says both domestic cats and large wild species can contract the virus from positive humans. The virus can replicate in cats but they do not become particularly ill and there are no proven cases of cats transmitting Covid-19 to humans. Humans can spread it to cats and cats may spread it to other cats.

The WHO website recommends that people who are infected with Covid-19 limit contact with pets and other animals: “When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing after handling animals, their food or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.”

De Bruyn agrees, saying "“It is important for Covid-19 positive owners to take precautions to prevent contaminating and infecting their pets. A foaming shampoo will kill the virus on the pet’s coat.”

According to the CDC website, walking your dog is important for both animal and human health and wellbeing — a practice that can still be safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Walk dogs on a leash, and stay at least 2m away from others. Do not gather in groups, stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings. To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk.”


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