Over the weekend the Bronx Zoo in New York City announced that one of its tigers tested positive for the coronavirus. The tiger is suspected to have contracted the virus from a zoo employee. Now, pet owners across the country are wondering about the risk inside their homes.
Simply put, the research on this topic is evolving. Nationally, there have been no documented cases of house pets with coronavirus, NBC medical correspondent Dr. John Torres reported on TODAY. In the world, there have only been four pets that tested positive.
Below are answers to common questions about the coronavirus and pets.
Can I give the coronavirus to my dog or cat?
Research seems to suggest it's possible. It's believed the Bronx tiger got sick from a human, and as of March 25, at least two dogs in Hong Kong had tested positive for the coronavirus after close human contacts also did, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Download the TODAY app for the latest coverage on the coronavirus outbreak.
As a result, the takeaway from the AVMA is this: If you have COVID-19, limit your contact with your pets out of an abundance of caution, and wash your hands before and after every interaction. If possible, have another household member walk, feed and play with your pet.
According to the AVMA, at this time there's no reason to remove pets from homes where humans have COVID-19, unless the condition could prevent the pet from receiving proper care.
Can I get the coronavirus from my dog or cat?
In an interview with Dr. John Howe, president of the AVMA, NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders reported that leading experts do not believe that animals can shed COVID-19 to people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree. According to the agency's website, there's "no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States." The CDC clarified that the main source of transmission still appears to be person to person through respiratory droplets.
While public health officials suspect this strain of the coronavirus did originate in an animal, as did previous coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, the exact source is under investigation.
How sick can animals become if they develop COVID-19? Again, the research is ongoing, but authorities at the Bronx Zoo say that the positive tiger and other big cats who showed symptoms, including lions, are recovering well. Neither of the dogs in Hong Kong showed symptoms of the illness, according to AVMA.
Do I need to take extra precautions when I walk my dog, or let my cat outside?
The AVMA recommends that when bringing animals outside you practice social distancing with them. This means not letting them off the leash to play with other people and avoiding crowded locations. Because the AVMA has no evidence that domestic cats or dogs may be naturally exposed to the virus, there's no recommendation that pets wear homemade masks when going outside. There's also need to do any extra cleaning when returning inside.
"We know things can go from humans to animals and animals back to human, but in (the tiger's) case, it looks like it went from animal to human and looks like it's staying there," Torres said.