Companion animals likely do not spread COVID-19 but may get infected themselves

Geroscience. 2020 Oct;42(5):1229-1236. doi: 10.1007/s11357-020-00248-3. Epub 2020 Aug 7.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). From the epidemiological data, the picture emerges that the more severe etiopathologies among COVID-19 patients are found in elderly people. The risk of death due to COVID-19 increases exponentially with age. Eight out of 10 COVID-19 related deaths occur in people older than 65 years of age. Older patients with comorbid conditions such as hypertension, heart failure, diabetes mellitus, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer have a much higher case fatality rate. Governments and public health authorities all over the world have realized that protections of vulnerable older adults should be a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease. The SARS-CoV-2 virus was originally transmitted likely from a bat or a pangolin to humans. Recent evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2, similar to other coronaviruses, can infect several species of animals, including companion animals such as dogs, cats, and ferrets although their viral loads remain low. While the main source of infection transmission therefore is human to human, there are a few rare cases of pets contracting the infection from a SARS-CoV-2-infected human. Although there is no evidence that pets actively transmit SARS-CoV-2 via animal-to-human transmission, senior pet ownership potentially may pose a small risk to older adults by (1) potentially enabling animal-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the most vulnerable population and (2) by increasing the exposition risk for the elderly due to the necessity to care for the pet and, in the case of dogs, to take them outside the house several times per day. In this overview, the available evidence on SARS-CoV-2 infection in pets is considered and the potential for spread of COVID-19 from companion animals to older individuals and the importance of prevention are discussed.

Keywords: Aging; SARS-CoV-2; Senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / transmission*