Yes, your pets can get coronavirus.
But it’s not the scary one. And they cannot give it to you.
Research shows that lots of animals are vulnerable to coronavirus, a large, hardy, and sprawling family of pathogens. Birds get avian coronavirus. Pigs get porcine coronavirus. Cows get bovine coronavirus. Horses get equine coronavirus
Dogs are sickened by canine coronavirus disease. It’s a quick but miserable disease, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and intestinal distress. It spreads through feces when your pup eats poop.
Dogs can also be infected by a respiratory form of coronavirus, which causes coughs, sneezes, and mobs of mucus.
When cats get coronaviruses, it’s usually not a big deal. They may suffer flu-like symptoms or feel perfectly fine. But every so often, in 5 to 10% of infected cats, the virus mutates and causes Feline Infectious Peritonitis — which is progressive and almost always fatal. It’s a heartbreaking disease, usually striking kittens.
To be sure, viruses don’t respect species boundaries.
Coronaviruses from various animals can swap genes, making them more easily interchangeable. Some of the cat coronaviruses, for example, have incorporated genes from pig and dog coronaviruses, according to Dr. Niels C. Pedersen of UC-Davis. This gene-swapping happens when they infect the same animal simultaneously.
Infection from some animals is possible when we share similar receptors on the surface of our cells, according to Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, which studies the origins of viruses. If an animal virus can bind to a human cell receptor, it makes us sick. That’s probably what’s behind the current outbreak; we share similar cell receptors with bats, known carriers of the new virus.
But cats, dogs, and humans are just too different.
There have been no reported cases of pets getting the new human virus. And there don’t seem to be any cases of people giving the human virus to their pets.
That’s yet another reason to keep Fido and Fluffy as friends.