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VERIFY: Yes, cats and dogs can get the virus that causes COVID-19. But it's rare, and symptoms are mild

As the omicron variant continues to spread, COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Some are wondering if they should worry about their pets if they get infected. We Verify.

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 is back on the rise, across the country. As the omicron variant continues to spread, many jurisdictions are setting single-day case records. 

As more people face the possibility of a positive infection, some took to social media to ask whether their pets can catch the illness. We Verify what's true and what's not. 

QUESTION:

Can domestic pets like cats and dogs get infected with COVID-19? 

SOURCES: 

ANSWER: 

Yes. Both cats and dogs have been infected with COVID-19, although this remains very rare. Pets that do get infected often have mild symptoms or remain asymptomatic. 

WHAT WE KNOW: 

On social media, there is a lot of talk about the growing number of COVID-19 cases. This is as the omicron variant continues to spread through communities big and small. 

Some have expressed concerns for their pets, wondering if they can catch the virus.

To verify if this is true, the Verify team turned to public health and veterinary experts, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the CDC, the USDA, and Dr. Christine Klippen from Friendship Animal Hospital in D.C. 

Our experts confirm that animals like cats and dogs can get the virus that causes COVID-19. 

"The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact," wrote the CDC. "Pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19."

Dr. Klippen said that these cases are extremely rare. The AVMA released data in March 2021, which found that infections had been reported in just 115 cats and 81 dogs across the globe. 

According to the AVMA, the infection had also been reported in 419 mink farms, 27 captive big cats, 3 captive gorillas, 1 domestic ferret, and one wild mink.

The USDA also tracks these infections and found that in the U.S., 108 cats have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, and 94 dogs have done so. A full breakdown of how many have been identified in each U.S. state can be found here

"These are very, very small numbers," said Klippen. "Because again, it is a disease of people primarily."

Klippen said that she has not seen a single COVID-19 positive animal at her veterinary office. She said this demonstrates both how rare the illness is in pets, as well as how limited the symptoms are. 

"We are not routinely testing for it," she said. "And I have not to date seen a pet that I was concerned that it had COVID." 

According to the CDC, animals like dogs and cats, face very limited symptoms if they get infected with COVID-19. 

"Pets infected with this virus may or may not get sick," the CDC wrote. "Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets is extremely rare." 

Possible symptoms for the rare few that get sick include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea, according to the CDC. 

The CDC said that typical social distancing methods can be used to limit the passing of COVID-19 to a pet.

"If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), you should avoid contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people," the CDC wrote. "Contact includes petting, snuggling, kissing, licking, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed."

This social distancing is recommended even if your pet is a "good boy."