Coronavirus & Animals — Can Animals Get Coronavirus?

March 24, 2021

Written by: Joe Lyman, DVM, MS

Veterinarians have often presented questions about new diseases when they hit the news. The disease on everybody's mind right now is, of course, novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. With every day bringing news of this virus's spread, animal owners inevitably become concerned about whether the disease can affect their animals. So, can animals get coronavirus?

First, let's understand what coronavirus is. The word coronavirus refers to an entire family of viruses known as Coronaviridae. This name means viruses with a crown because the virus appears to have a crown surrounding the viral particle on the virus's electron micrographs. While most people are simply referring to the current outbreak as coronavirus, it is more appropriate to call it COVID-19. This name comes from COronaVIrus  Disease — 2019. 

While it's the one making the news, COVID-19 is far from the only coronavirus in the world.  Coronaviruses have been affecting humans and animals for thousands of years. Coronaviruses made the news in 2002 with the SARS outbreak and again in 2012 with the MERS outbreak. In domestic animals, coronaviruses cause all sorts of diseases, infecting dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and even ferrets. Some well-known viruses, such as Feline coronavirus (FCov) can cause the debilitating disease feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). A porcine coronavirus called transmissible gastroenteritis coronavirus causes rapid outbreaks of severe gastrointestinal disease in pigs. Canine coronaviruses can cause both respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. 

So the simple answer to the big question, can animals get coronavirus is yes. Animals do get coronavirus.  However, they don't get COVID-19, and that's the real question, isn't it?

Right now, COVID-19 is being transmitted from person to person. The working theory is that COVID-19 came into humans through a wildlife source in China, with the original culprit not identified yet. This does not mean, however, that this coronavirus will go from people back into domestic animals.  In general, coronaviruses are adapted to only one species. When people are exposed to Feline coronavirus, for example, no disease occurs.  Domestic animals exposed to COVID-19 are unlikely to

As usual, basic biosecurity is always a good plan while keeping your animals away from other animals, especially those whose health you don't know. Maintain a regular vaccination plan and don't take animals with any signs of illness to public areas. Always wash hands after contact with animals, even if they don't appear sick. Of course, you should consult a veterinarian for any animal that shows any signs of disease. 

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Category: Animal Safety