Animals and COVID-19

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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 have infected mink, and then mink have spread the virus back to other people. Recent reports have identified possible animal-to-human transmission from hamsters (Hong Kong) and suspected animal-to-human transmission from a deer (Canada).

Based on available information to date:

While vaccines are helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in people, the virus is still circulating. The virus may be able to infect different species of animals as it evolves and new variants emerge.

We track and analyze research and case reports from around the world on COVID-19 and animals.

Animals reported to get the COVID-19 virus from people or other animals through natural exposure in the environment

Farmed animals

Animal Can spread the COVID-19 virus
Mink Yes, to other mink and to people

Companion animals

Animal Can spread the COVID-19 virus
Cat Yes, to other cats
Dog No
Ferret Yes, to other ferrets
Hamster Yes, to other hamsters and possibly people

Wildlife

Animal Can spread the COVID-19 virus
American minkFootnote 1 Yes, to other mink and to people
Asian small-clawed otter Unknown
Binturong or bearcat Unknown
Coatimundi Unknown
Eurasian beaver Yes, to other beavers
Gorilla Yes, to other gorillas
Hippopotamus Unknown
Mule deer Unknown
Spotted hyena Unknown
White-tailed deerFootnote 1 Yes, to other deer and possibly people
Wild cats, such as:
  • lion
  • tiger
  • jaguar
  • cougar
  • fishing cat
  • Canada lynx
  • snow leopard
Yes, to other wild cats

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Free-ranging animals

Return to footnote 1 referrer

These tables are based on official reports and peer-reviewed publications available as of February 2022.

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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 or are in quarantine or isolation. To keep your pets safe, you should:

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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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Caring for exposed animals

Based on available information to date, 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, take precautions when handling the animal. Follow the same instructions as you would if caring for a person who has or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

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.

Some people should avoid being temporary caregivers to exposed animals. This is particularly important if you’re at higher risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19, especially if you’re unvaccinated.

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

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Livestock and other farmed animals

Chickens, turkeys and ducks do not get the virus.

There have been no reports of other livestock (such as cows, pigs, goats or sheep) being naturally infected with the COVID-19 virus.

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 or isolating, 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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Wildlife

There have been a few 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. Recent 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.

Until we know more, 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

Until we know more, to help protect yourself and reduce your risk while hunting or trapping, 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.

These precautions are particularly important for those who:

Whenever possible, have a vaccinated person handle carcasses.

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 licensed vaccines against the COVID-19 virus approved for use in animals in Canada. In some circumstances, such as for farmed mink and zoo animals, experimental vaccines may be approved for emergency use.

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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