New research has found Covid-19  is commonly detected in pet cats and dogs whose owners have the disease.

But how likely is it for dogs to catch Covid and what are the signs and symptoms your pet has the virus?

Here’s what you need to know.

Can dogs get Covid?

New research has suggested that Covid is common in pet cats and dogs whose owners have the disease.

Researchers from Utrecht University sent a mobile veterinary clinic to households in the Netherlands that had tested positive for Covid at some point in the past 200 days.

Swabs were then taken from cats and dogs in the households to test for evidence of a current infection.

Blood samples were also tested for antibodies suggesting a past exposure to Covid-19.

Swabs were taken from 310 pets in 196 households where a human infection had been detected, with six cats and seven dogs return

The study tested cats and dogs for Covid-19 in households that had the virus. It found that 4% of dogs and cats had positive PCR tests indicating active infection and 17% had antibodies indicating prior infection, suggesting that around 20% of exposed pets may have been infecting a positive PCR result and 54 animals testing positive for virus antibodies.

The authors of the study said no evidence of pet-to-owner transmission had been recorded to date.

However, researchers also said this would be difficult to detect while coronavirus was still spreading easily between humans.

What should I do if I have Covid?

Researchers from the study have said that if you have Covid-19 then you should avoid contact with your pet where possible.

Dr Els Broens, from Utrecht University, said: "If you have Covid, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people.

"The main concern is not the animals' health but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.

"Fortunately, to date no pet-to-human transmission has been reported.

"So, despite the rather high prevalence among pets from COVID-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic."

Most infected pets were found to be asymptomatic or displayed mild Covid symptoms.

Eight cats and dogs that lived in the same homes as the pets that tested positive for the virus were also swabbed for a second time to check for transmission of the virus among pets, but none tested positive.

This suggested that the virus was not being passed between pets living in close contact with one another.

In line with public health guidance, you should:

wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food or bedding
not share food with your pet

There is currently no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of COVID-19, according to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

“If you’re concerned about your pet because it has respiratory or digestive problems and a temperature, you should contact your vet who will decide whether testing is required,” said Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

What are the symptoms of Covid in pets?

According to the PDSA, “most of the small number of animals that have tested positive for Covid-19 have either not had symptoms, or only suffered very mild symptoms.” These include:

- Coughing
- Sneezing
- A runny nose
- Weepy eyes
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Mild breathing difficulties
- High temperature
- Reduced appetite

Advice from vets

Vicky Bridges is a regional veterinary manager for My Family Vets practices in the South of England, a vet with over two decades of experience.

She said: 

“The latest study today suggests that it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic. 

“We want to reassure pet owners today that we are not concerned for our pets’ health at all.

“There is currently no evidence of spread of Covid from pets to humans – or from dogs and cats to other animals.  The latest research backs up other evidence that the most likely route of virus transmission is from human to animal, rather than the other way round.

“If dogs and cats have been infected, they usually have no symptoms, or very mild respiratory symptoms or diarrhoea.  The virus passes quickly and most will recover really well. 

“We are not seeing an increase in suspected cases across our My Family Vet practices across the UK.

“Our advice is to continue seeking all your usual healthcare from your vet, and if you do have any concerns, do speak to your vet.

“It has been advised to distance as much as possible from your pets if you do have Covid-19 and it would be advisable to keep them isolated too if there is infection in the family home and avoid others walking your dog. If you are able to keep your cat indoors without causing them distress, whilst you isolate, then that would also be advisable. But rest assured there is currently no evidence that you can catch Covid from your pet.”

You should contact your vet for advice if your pet has any of these symptoms, but also keep in mind that these are all common symptoms and unlikely to be Covid-19 related.