COVID-19 and animals

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Risk of COVID-19 spreading between people and animals

Different animal species have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 during the pandemic. This has mostly happened after close contact with people infected with the virus.

We're still learning about the COVID-19 virus in animals and we need more research to better understand:

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, the only confirmed reports of the COVID-19 virus spreading from animals to people have been from mink farms. In these situations, workers infected mink, and then mink spread the virus back to other people. Reports have identified possible animal-to-human transmission from animals, such as cats, hamsters and deer.

Based on available information to date:

The virus may be able to infect different species of animals as it evolves and new variants emerge.

We monitor research and case reports from around the world on COVID-19 and animals. For more information on the species of animals that have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, consult:

Pets and COVID-19

There have been many reports of infected humans spreading the COVID-19 virus to their dog or cat after a period of close contact. It’s important to take precautions to keep your pets safe.

How to keep your pets safe

It’s important to follow the advice of your local public health authority if you have COVID-19 symptoms. While at home, there are a number of things you can do in your household to reduce spread to other family members, including pets:

If your pet shows signs of illness and you're concerned about their health, contact your veterinarian.

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Pets and long-term care homes

Take extra precautions for animals that live in or visit long-term care homes. This is because in these settings:

Residents, staff, designated caregivers and visitors should follow any guidance provided by the facility for managing pets.

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Livestock and other farmed animals

Chickens, turkeys and ducks do not get the virus.

There have been limited reports of other livestock (such as cows, horses, goats and sheep) being naturally exposed to the COVID-19 virus. However, there was no evidence of clinical illness or further spread.

Farmed mink are easily infected with the COVID-19 virus, and it can spread rapidly once introduced to a mink farm. The most likely source of the virus for farmed mink is infected humans.

If you're sick, have another person care for your animals. If this isn't possible, follow infection prevention and control measures.

If you have questions or concerns, ask your veterinarian or your local public health authority.

A control plan checklist is available from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada to help farm businesses reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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There have been reports of the COVID-19 virus in free-ranging and captive wild species found in North America, including:

Studies on white-tailed deer have found that while the virus likely spread initially from humans, deer-to-deer transmission is also occurring. Research in Canada has found one instance of suspected deer-to-human transmission. This appears to be an isolated case with no further transmission.

Based on available information to date, animal-to-human transmission is likely very uncommon. COVID-19 is mainly transmitted from human to human.

We're still learning about the COVID-19 virus in wildlife, and need more research to better understand:

People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. Anyone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including feeding wildlife, to protect them from possible infection.

People who hunt, trap or work closely with or handle wildlife should take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

There’s no evidence that properly prepared and cooked food can spread the COVID-19 virus. Cook your game meat to recommended safe internal temperatures (74°C or 165°F). Coronaviruses are killed by normal cooking temperatures.

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Hunting and trapping

Wild animals can be an excellent source of nutrition and contribute to local communities’ health and well being. However, there are several diseases that can be transmitted between wild animals and people. This includes the virus that causes COVID-19, but also other viruses, bacteria and parasites. To help protect yourself and reduce your risk, it's recommended that you:

Don't hunt or eat animals that appear sick or are found dead. Report any sick or dead animals to your local wildlife authority.

When handling a carcass (such as dressing or skinning):

After handling the carcass:

Cook meat to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) to kill any parasites, viruses or bacteria that may be present.

Talk to your provincial or territorial public health authority for more information. Follow all local orders and guidance.

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Tests for COVID-19 in animals

In general, we don’t recommend testing animals for the COVID-19 virus. The virus is mainly spread between people, not through animals.

Most infected animals don’t get sick. However, some animals may show some signs of illness, such as:

If an animal develops illness following exposure to someone with COVID-19 or a person with COVID-19 symptoms, call your veterinarian. They can assess the situation and determine if the animal needs to be seen.

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Vaccine against the COVID-19 virus for animals

There are currently no fully licensed vaccines against the COVID-19 virus approved for use in animals in Canada. In some circumstances, experimental vaccines may be approved for emergency use.

A vaccine manufactured by Zoetis, Inc. from the U.S. has been conditionally licensed for use in mink. It has also been approved for emergency use in zoo animals.

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