As of now, there is no definite explanation as to the origin of the current strain of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Still, “Scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to wildlife,” specifically bats, “as the most likely origin” (NPR). If such is the case, COVID-19 would be considered a “zoonotic” disease, meaning that it is transmitted from animals to humans; other significant zoonotic diseases include rabies, Ebola, and malaria (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC).
With wildlife as the suspected source of the virus, it would come into question whether or not animals could continue to be involved. For example, could household pets become infected, or even infect their owners? The question is a valid concern, as about 85 million families own a pet in the U.S. alone (Insurance Information Institute).
Megan Chou (9), states that she would be “devastated if any of [her] pets had COVID-19 because life just wouldn’t be the same. [She] pet[s], hold[s], and see[s] [her] pets a lot everyday, so it would almost be like missing a family member.”
Fortunately for Megan and those 85 million families, CDC states that “there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus… to people,” or even that they “might be a source of infection in the United States.”
However it is important to note the claim only covers the United States. In fact, there have been multiple reports of domestic animals, including dogs and cats, testing positive for COVID-19 outside of the U.S. (World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE). In these cases, infection was caused by close contact with previously infected people (OIE).
In a singular case, there is one animal that tested positive in the United States. A tiger in Bronx Zoo of New York City is suspected to have been infected through exposure to a zoo employee (NY Times). Since the tiger is not a domestic animal, its case does not mark the first of household infection.
Ultimately, the Coronavirus is spread from person to person. Human outbreaks are caused by contact with other humans, and although there are cases of humans infecting pets, there is no evidence that pets can infect humans (CDC).
Homeowners with pets are expected to treat their animals as one would treat a human family member. This includes limiting outside interaction, maintaining six feet distance, and avoiding public places. It is also recommended to practice basic hygiene, such as washing hands after contact with the pet’s food and waste.