The CDC now recommends social distancing for pets


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in two pet cats in New York State.

In the wake of that announcement, the CDC now recommends that pet owners follow the same social distancing guidelines with their pets as with human family members.

From the CDC website: “Treat pets as you would other human family members—do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”

Other social distancing recommendations for pets include:

  • Restrict pets from interacting with other animals when outside their house
  • Keep cats indoors when possible
  • Walk dogs on a leash while maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals

The CDC recommendations also call for people to avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather. Since the CDC’s social distancing recommendations, a third pet—a dog in North Carolina—has also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Inside the home, it's fine for pet owners to interact with pets as they normally would—ideally with frequent handwashing and good pet hygiene—as long as they’re kept isolated from infected family members.

NEWStat reached out to J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM, associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and contributing reviewer of AAHA’s Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines, to ask whether the CDC’s advocating of social distancing for pets changes the situation on the ground regarding pet owners’ fears about their pets catching COVID-19.

Weese says the CDC’s new social distancing recommendations shouldn’t be big news to veterinarians.

“Social distancing should be a household activity, not just a human activity. We can do it with ease and [without] compromising care or welfare of our pets,” he told told NEWStat

Weese notes that practicing social distancing with pets doesn’t have to be complicated: “Keeping dogs on a leash and not letting pets roam freely isn’t hard.”

If it does present a challenge, Weese says it’s for the owners of indoor/outdoor cats who don’t tolerate being inside all the time. His advice: “If there’s a suspicion of COVID-19 in the household, indoor/outdoor cats should be either fully indoors or fully outdoors, not both, since we don’t want them tracking this virus out of the house.”

Photo credit: © iStock/nemke

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