Animals and COVID-19
The virus that causes COVID-19 is different from other coronaviruses that affect domestic animals. Learn how to keep pets and livestock, as well as yourself, safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On this page
- Risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people
- Pets and COVID-19
- Livestock and other farmed animals
- Tests for COVID-19 in animals
- Vaccine against COVID-19 for animals
- Importing animals
- Availability of animal health products
- Information and guidance for veterinarians
Risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people
There’s currently limited information on animals and COVID-19, especially on whether animals can spread the virus. In most circumstances, people are infecting animals (human-to-animal transmission).
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, there haven’t been any reports of pets spreading COVID-19 to people. However, reports from the Netherlands and Denmark suggest that mink have infected some workers on mink farms. This is an area that continues to be studied.
The Public Health Agency of Canada tracks and analyzes research and case reports from around the world on COVID-19 and animals.
The table below summarizes our current knowledge about which animals:
- can get infected with COVID-19 through natural exposure in the environment
- may be able to infect humans
Some animals may get sick and show signs of illness, such as:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty breathing
- vomiting or diarrhea
|Animal||Can be infected by COVID-19||Can spread COVID-19
|Cat||Yes||Yes, to other cats|
|Big cat (tiger, lion)||Yes||Yes, to other big cats|
|Mink||Yes||Yes, to other mink and to people|
Based on limited information available as of January 14, 2021. Animal species not listed don’t yet have any evidence available.
Some studies on animals (PDF) in laboratory settings have shown that they can get COVID-19.
Pets and COVID-19
If you have no symptoms of COVID-19, it’s healthy for you and your pet to:
- go for walks
- spend time together
There have been several reports of infected humans spreading the virus to their dog or cat. However, it’s still not clear how often this happens or under what circumstances.
How to keep your pets safe
- avoid close contact with animals
- do not:
- let them lick you
- snuggle or kiss them
- share food with them
- let them sit on your lap
- let them sleep in your bed
- practise good hygiene
- wash your hands often, especially before and after touching animals, their food or their supplies
- avoid coughing and sneezing on your animals
- avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- have another member of your household care for your animals
- if this isn’t possible, it’s recommended that you wear a non-medical mask to care for your pet while you isolate at home
- keep your pet away from people and animals outside your household until you’re no longer ill or isolating
- keep your cat indoors at all times
- keep your dog in a private fenced area or ensure they’re on a leash when you take them outside to go to the bathroom
Caring for exposed animals
We don’t believe pets play an important role in the spread of this disease. However, if you’re caring for a pet that has been around someone with COVID-19, precautions should be taken for 14 days after the animal’s last exposure to the human case:
- follow the recommendations in the previous section about contact and hygiene
- frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that the animal often touches
If possible, keep the animal in their own home. This will minimize contact with any new people, animals or environments.
If the owner lives alone and needs to be hospitalized, their animal may need to move temporarily to a clinic, shelter or new household. In these cases, confine the animal to one area to minimize contact with other people and animals.
Individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness should avoid being temporary caregivers to exposed animals.
If the animal shows signs of illness and you’re concerned about their health, contact your veterinarian.
Livestock and other farmed animals
There have been no reports of livestock (such as cows, pigs, goats or sheep) being infected with COVID-19. Early results of studies in laboratory settings suggest that pigs and cows may be very mildly prone to the virus but don’t spread it to other animals. Chickens, turkeys and ducks are not susceptible to the virus. The susceptibility of other livestock is still unknown, but studies are underway.
As of December 2020, there have been many reports of farmed mink being infected and getting sick with COVID-19 in many countries, such as:
- the U.S.
- the Netherlands
Mink are easily infected with COVID-19, and it can spread rapidly once introduced to a mink farm. The most likely source of the virus introduction to farmed mink is infected humans. That’s why it’s important to know how to protect farmed animals and reduce the risk of transmission.
How to protect your livestock and other farmed animals
Producers should have business continuity plans to deal with the COVID-19 situation and unexpected disruptions. Industry associations could be a helpful resource for farmers as they develop or revise their business continuity plans.
Follow normal biosecurity measures as always. Limit access of non-essential people to your premises, and exclude anyone who:
- has travelled abroad in the last 14 days
- is ill, especially with symptoms of COVID-19
- has been in close contact with a confirmed or suspected case in the last 14 days
Consult with your local public health authority about guidance for farming and agricultural settings. A control plan checklist (PDF) is available from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada to help farm businesses reduce the spread of COVID-19. This checklist can be adapted for many types of agricultural businesses.
If you’re sick or isolating, have another person care for your animals. If this isn’t possible, follow infection prevention and control measures.
- Minimize your direct contact with animals.
- Put on clean clothes before going out to the barn.
- Always wash your hands before and after touching animals, their food and supplies.
- Practise good coughing and sneezing (respiratory) etiquette.
- Wear a non-medical mask to care for your animals.
- Wear a medical mask if you work on a mink farm (only wear a non-medical mask if medical masks aren’t available).
We recommend these measures as a precaution to prevent transmission of diseases between humans and animals.
If you have questions or concerns, ask your veterinarian or a local public health professional.
For more information regarding on-farm disease prevention, consult the:
- National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide
- National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles
Tests for COVID-19 in animals
In general, testing animals for COVID-19 isn’t recommended. The virus is mainly spread between people, not through animals.
If your animal develops illness following exposure to a COVID-19 case, or person with COVID-19 symptoms, call your veterinarian. They can:
- assess the situation and determine if your animal needs to be seen
- help determine if your animal has another more common disease or condition
Vaccine against COVID-19 for animals
There are no vaccines against COVID-19 available in Canada for animals. There’s no evidence that vaccinating animals with vaccines for other coronaviruses will protect against COVID-19.
All animals entering Canada must meet import requirements set out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The World Organisation for Animal Health doesn’t recommend COVID-19-related trade restrictions for animals.
There are no COVID-related restrictions on importing animals to Canada. It’s recommended that individuals, rescue organizations and adoptive families postpone importing animals during the pandemic. Several factors may have a negative impact on the well-being of imported animals, including:
- travel restrictions
- limited flights
- limited access to veterinary care
Before importing an animal, check the current outbreak situation at the animal’s origin and destination. Find out if any travel restrictions are in place for people or animals.
Imported animals can carry diseases that we don’t have in Canada. These diseases can spread to other animals or people. It’s always a good idea to have a veterinarian examine a recently imported animal. They can advise you on ways to keep the animal, other animals and your family healthy.
Availability of animal health products
The Canadian Animal Health Institute provides updates on any shortages, disruptions or production delays for animal health products.
Information and guidance for veterinarians
A list of frequently asked questions for veterinarians (PDF) on COVID-19 and animals is available on the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association COVID-19 website.
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