If a Tiger Can Catch COVID-19, Can Your Cat or Dog at Home?

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The country was collectively shocked Monday when we all learned a zoo tiger in the Bronx tested positive for COVID-19, and many were left wondering what the risk is for pets at home.

Nadia, the 4-year-old resident of the Bronx Zoo, is believed to have transmitted the disease from her caretaker who is sick but not showing symptoms. That caretaker also may have passed the disease on to three other tigers and three lions.

So if Nadia can get COVID-19, what’s that mean for Spot, who’s nestled at your feet right now, or for Gretchen, who might find her way to the foot of your bed tonight? And should you stay away from them, or worse?

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is aware of some pets outside the U.S. that have reportedly been infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it doesn’t have evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to people.

The American Veterinarian Medical Association also says there is no evidence that domestic animals can spread COVID-19 to people.

It seems we may have to wait for firm answers regarding pet-to-human transmission, but for now it looks like a no. We do know, however, that pets can get the disease from humans.

The Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe hasn’t treated any animals for the coronavirus, but they are fielding a lot of questions from pet owners asking about the risks.

How do you keep your social distance from your fury friends?

 “If you are confirmed to have coronavirus, if it's possible, have someone else care for your pet out of an abundance of caution,” Helen Woodard veterinarian Dr. Abigail Zern said.

Dr. Zern recommends following the CDC guidelines set forth for humans. If you got out for walks, be sure your pet is practicing social distancing from other people and pets, and don't let anyone outside of your own household pet your dog or cat.

“Wash your hands, wash your pet. Shelter in place with your pet. Limit exposure to the virus the same way you do for yourself,” she said.

As for big cats at the Lions Tigers and Bears sanctuary in Alpine, founder Bobbi Brink said staffers are paying close attention after hearing about Nadia’s case.

“The challenge is six foot because we are the keepers we are the caretakers that take care of the animals, so we are just going to do the best we can,” Brink said.

Brink keeps keeps the half-dozen staffers that work with the animals quarantined at the sanctuary. They wear masks, gloves and disinfect all surfaces.

Brink has 30 years of experience working with tigers and other big cats, but when it comes to COVID-19 she said she fears more for her three house cats.

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