COVID-19 and Your Pet

Pictured: Rhea

As the world is caught in the grip of the COVID-19 virus and its spread through human to human transmission, affecting 199 countries and territories around the world, we find ourselves in need of drawing attention to the effect this has on our pets. While the exact source of the virus has not been identified, studies suggest the virus originated in animals and mutated through an intermediate animal host, subsequently spreading to humans.[1]

The developments of this pandemic are having an effect on our island’s pets because:

Pets have become the voiceless victims

In Hong Kong, a pet dog was reported to have contracted a “low-level” COVID-19 infection from its owner, the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission.[2]  One more case sprung up shortly after. Although the dogs did not develop symptoms of illness and were allowed to return home after testing negative for the virus, the fear still spread like wildfire. Despite experts reporting that no evidence was found of transmission of the disease from companion animals to humans, pet owners in China started abandoning their pets or having them put to death out of fear their pet may bring the virus into their homes.[3] Similarly, a public statement from the Veterinary Service of Aruba[4] offered the reassurance that animal to human transmission has not been recorded, yet local veterinary clinics and animal welfare organizations report being approached by pet owners who wish to surrender or euthanize their pets in increasing numbers.

Cats may be vulnerable

While there have been no reports of pets passing the virus to their human owners, a case of human-to-cat transmission has been reported in Belgium [5]. About a week after its owner got sick with COVID-19,  the cat developed symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory issues. Genetic tests showed high levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the cat’s vomit and feces samples. However, after 9 days the cat recovered. So far scientists have yet to prove definitively if the cat was infected with SARS-CoV-2 which will be done with blood test to look for antibodies specific to this virus.

Calling all animal lovers

Animal rescue foundations in Aruba already had their hands full with strays, and dumped/unwanted pets before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we need a lending hand from local pet lovers who are willing to foster or adopt a pet. Not only do you help save a life, you also cater to your own mental health.

Pets are magical

It’s no secret that having a pet is great for alleviating anxiety, stress and depression[6]. This is called the Pet Effect. Any pet owner will tell you how much their own quality of life has improved with the constant companionship, love and affection received from their furry therapist. With the potential for social distancing to become a long-term event, we can expect loneliness and social isolation to worsen or trigger mental health problems. Studies[7] show that pets can provide a sense of security and routine that provide emotional and social support. Now, more than ever, we can use a dose of pet companionship to reduce the anxiety and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Stay healthy around pets

Although there is no evidence to suggest pets could be a source of COVID-19 infection, animals can still carry germs that can make people sick. We always advise practicing these healthy habits around pets and other animals:

  • Wash hands after handling animals, their food, waste or supplies
  • Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets
  • Take pets for regular vet checks

What if you get sick?

If you get sick (either from the novel coronavirus or otherwise), you should limit contact with your pet in the same manner you would with other people. If possible, have another member of your family or friend take care of your pet until you recover. If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with your pet.

Still have unanswered questions?

Do you still have questions or concerns about COVID-19 and your pet? You are welcome to send us an email at info@animalrightsaruba.org or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also try:


[1] Chengxin Zhang, Wei Zheng, Xiaoqiang Huang, Eric W. Bell, Xiaogen Zhou, Yang Zhang. Protein Structure and Sequence Reanalysis of 2019-nCoV Genome Refutes Snakes as Its Intermediate Host and the Unique Similarity between Its Spike Protein Insertions and HIV-1. Journal of Proteome Research, 2020; DOI: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.0c00129.

[2] Lum A., Mok D., Cheung E., Zhang K., South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: pet dog belonging to Covid-19 patient infected, Hong Kong health authorities confirm, Hong Kong, 2020, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3065016/coronavirus-pet-dog-belonging-covid-19-patient (accessed 29 March 2020).

[3] Kim A., CNN World, Cats and dogs abandoned at the start of the coronavirus outbreak are now starving or being killed, Asia, 2020, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/15/asia/coronavirus-animals-pets-trnd/index.html (accessed 29 March 2020).

[4] Mas Noticia, Veterinario oficial Irene Croes: COVID-19 y bo mascota, Oranjestad, 2020, https://masnoticia.com/veterinario-oficial-irene-croes-covid-19-y-bo-mascota/ (accessed 29 March 2020).

[5] Bryner J., Live Science, Cat infected with COVID-19 from owner in Belgium, Belgium, 2020, https://www.livescience.com/cat-infected-covid-19-from-owner.html (accessed 30 March 2020).

[6] Feldman, S., Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2018, https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/alleviating-anxiety-stress-and-depression-pet (accessed 29 March 2020).

[7]Brooks, H., Rushton, K., Walker, S. et al. Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry 16, 409 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-1111-3.

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