Covid-19 and our pets


EXPERT OPINION Our pets are safe from the virus and they do not carry it in their systems, say leading animal-virology experts.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

I have had numerous e-mails in the past few weeks asking whether our pets at risk of catching Covid-19, spreading it to other pets, or giving it to us humans.
The current expert scientific position from the leading experts in animal virology tell us that, luckily, our pets are safe from the virus and they do not carry it in their systems.
However, technically and theoretically, a particular pet who has been in direct contact with a person who has the virus could spread it to another human should that pet come in contact with another person soon after the contact with the infected individual. For instance, in a house where a pet may have licked the face of someone carrying the virus and has gone on to lick the face or indeed the hand of another person in the house soon after, this pet could, theoretically, give that person the virus – but this is extremely unlikely.
There have been reports coming out of China of an old Pomeranian having tested a very weak positive for Covid-19, but days later it tested negative and it showed no symptoms – and this dog was in direct contact with other dogs during this time, all of whom tested negative at all times. This Pomeranian died a number of days later, but it was believed to have died from natural causes.
A company in Hong Kong has undertaken the testing of thousands of dogs and cats with no positive results, so at this time it is extremely unlikely that our pets are in any way at risk.
I will say this though, viruses such as Covid-19 and other flu-like viruses have a nasty habit of mutating and getting into the animal population this way. However, at the present time, there no evidence that this has happened.
Because many of us are spending a lot more time at home at the moment, it is a great opportunity to engage with our pets more – perhaps more play in the back yard or more walks. This is to be welcomed, but please observe strict Government guidelines in terms of social distancing and respect others at this incredibly difficult time.
Because we may be spending a lot more time (especially children) with our pets, it is so so important that our pets are up to date with their worming and indeed ecto-parasitic treatments so as not to put the health of those who interact with them at risk.
Pets can be a great source of stress relief at this time, so please do engage with them, embrace them, play with them, walk with them. Pets are very in tune with how people are feeling and they can become stressed too if the people around them are stressed or anxious.
If you are currently or will soon be self-isolating due to Covid-19, yes your pet can stay with you but it is advisable that they do not sleep in your bed or that you don’t kiss them and make sure to wash hands after handling them, as your immune system will undoubtedly be compromised at this time.
Can I just finish this month by saying that I wish each and everyone of you well. Please stay safe and please, please, please adhere to the advise of the HSE. It will be by each of us doing our own bit, that we will minimise the long-term effects of this virus.

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment. All readers’ questions about pet health are welcome. Please email your queries
to Conal at