SAN FRANCISCO -- After two cats became the first pets in the U.S. to test positive for COVID-19, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) says pet owners should take social distancing precautions and treat their animals like "other human family members."
"Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, please treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from possible infection," the CDC says on their website.
In a recent advisory, the CDC says that there is "no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19." However, there have been a handful of cases where pets have been reported to be infected with the virus, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19.
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The first two U.S. pet felines infected with the virus were from different households in New York and both had mild respiratory illness, according to the CDC. The agency said one of the cats' owner tested positive for the virus.
To err on the side of caution, the CDC recommends protecting yourself as well as your animals by adhering to best social distance practices by not letting dogs, cats, furry friends interact with people or other animals from outside the household.
This means walking your dog on a leash and maintaining six feet from other people, keeping your cat indoors and avoiding parks or public places where a large number of people and pets gather.
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"To help maintain social distancing, do not let other people pet your dog when you are out for a walk," the agency adds.
If you are sick, the agency says to avoid contact with your pets and, if possible, have another member of your household care for your them.
"If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food or bedding."
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The CDC does not know which animals can be infected, but they are aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.
A tiger at a zoo in New York has also tested positive for the virus and recently a dog named Winston from North Carolina became infected with COVID-19 after his family members all tested positive as well. The study at Duke University suggests Winston the pug is the first known novel coronavirus case in a canine.
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If you think your pet may have been infected with the virus, talk to your veterinarian about your concerns, the CDC advises.
"If your pet gets sick after contact with a person with COVID-19, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your veterinarian and let them know the pet was around a person with COVID-19. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet's treatment and care."
For more information on pets and COVID-19 see the CDC's website here.
Coronavirus tips: Social distancing applies to pets too, CDC says