People may have questions regarding COVID-19 and family pets. Here is what we currently know regarding pets and COVID-19:
Ferrets: Ferrets have been shown to be susceptible to COVID-19 infection. Studies have also shown that ferrets are able to transmit COVID-19 to each other. To date, it appears that ferrets are either asymptomatic or have mild disease symptoms when infected with COVID-19. For more details on the latest information about ferrets and COVID-19, please read the October 8, 2021 Worms & Germs blog post written by Dr. Scott Weese.
Hamsters: When it comes to infectious diseases, both humans and Syrian hamsters have similar symptoms, disease development and immune system responses. Because of this similarity to humans, Syrian hamsters have been widely used in COVID-19 research. Hamsters have been shown to be susceptible to some, but not all strains of COVID-19. A study published online in Science Direct on January 21, 2022 found that Syrian hamsters are not easily infected with the omicron strain. In mid-January 2022, 11 hamsters in a Hong Kong pet shop tested positive for COVID-19 after a pet shop worker tested positive for the delta variant. A pet shop patron was also said to be infected with COVID. Even though there is no evidence that domestic animals can infect humans, authorities in Hong Kong have ordered 2,000 hamsters, chinchillas and rabbits be euthanized. While Hong Kong’s health secretary, Sophia Chan, acknowledges that there is no evidence that domestic animals can infect humans with COVID-19, she says they are acting out of “caution.” For further details, please read the Worms & Germs blog posts dated January 18, 2022 “SARS-CoV-2 in Pet Hamsters (and a Massive Over-Reaction)”, January 23, 2022 “The Great Escape: Hamster Style” and January 26, 2022 “Omicron and Animals.”
Mice: Mice in a laboratory setting have been shown to be susceptible to the beta and gamma COVID variants, but they don’t appear to be susceptible to either the first COVID strain or the delta variant.
Birds: Birds are not susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
Rabbits: Rabbits appear to be at low risk for getting COVID. While some experiments have shown that some rabbits can become infected with COVID, they appear to have a low virus load and are largely asymptomatic.
Cats: Like ferrets, cats are susceptible to COVID-19 from infected humans. Also like ferrets, cats can transmit COVID to each other. But it’s unclear if cats can infect humans and if they can, such infections are likely uncommon. Dr. Scott Weese provides a detailed review of what we know so far about cats and COVID in his September 15, 2021 Worms & Germs blog post.
Dogs: There were reports in the earlier days of the pandemic that two dogs in Hong Kong (but members of two different and unrelated families) tested positive for COVID-19. Both cases were reportedly human-to-animal transmission. But it is important to note that in both cases the dogs did not display any signs of illness after being infected. There have been other reports of dogs becoming infected with mild illness after contracting COVID from infected humans, but the infection rate has been low. Dr. Scott Weese writes that the risk for dogs becoming infected with COVID is low in his September 24, 2021 Worms & Germs blog post.
If you fall ill with COVID-19, please limit contact with your pets as much as possible or have someone else care for your pets while you are in quarantine so you can avoid infecting your pet with COVID.