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COVID-19: Animals

Key Messages

  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread from people to animals. In rare instances, SARS-CoV-2 has also spread from animals to people. However, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is low. The virus is mainly spread from person to person. 
  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, or were recently exposed should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife. 
  • More research is needed to better understand how COVID-19 is spread between people and animals. 

Can people with COVID-19 spread it to animals? 

Yes. If a person has COVID-19 they can spread the virus to animals. There have been several cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19 around the world. Most of the identified animals infected with COVID-19 were exposed to people who were sick with COVID-19.

More research is needed to better understand how COVID-19 is spread from people to animals and how it can be prevented. COVID-19 has been reported in multiple types of animals, including:  

  • Pet cats, dogs, hamsters, and ferrets
  • Animals in zoos and sanctuaries
  • White-tailed deer, mule deer, anteaters, and other wildlife
  • Minks on mink farms and wild minks near mink farms


Young adult holding a dog


Pets and COVID-19

Some pets, including cats, dogs, hamsters, and ferrets, have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after being exposed to people who have COVID-19. Serious illness from COVID-19 in pets is very rare. Pets with COVID-19 may have symptoms including coughing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, runny nose, vomiting, or diarrhea. Pets may also be lethargic or not have their usual amount of energy.

If you are sick with COVID-19, treat pets as you would other household members and take steps to prevent them from getting sick:

  • If possible, have another household member care for your pet.
  • Avoid contact with your pet(s). Contact includes petting, snuggling, kissing, and sleeping in the same bed.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask or respirator and wash your hands before and after you interact with your pet if you must be around them.
  • Do not use chemicals or disinfectants to clean your pet.
  • Do not put any type of mask on your pet.

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet becomes sick or if you have any questions about your pet’s health.

It is important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. If your pet has symptoms of COVID-19, they may recommend that you isolate your pet and keep them home. Pets can follow the same isolation recommendations that a person infected with COVID-19 would follow. If your pet must go outside, keep them away from other domestic and wild animals. Isolating your pet helps stop the virus from spreading to other animals or people.

Wildlife and COVID-19

Both domestic and wild animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. More research is needed to help us understand how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread between people and wildlife. Based on available data, the risk of animals, including wildlife, spreading COVID-19 to people is low.

White-tailed deer

Large on-going studies are being conducted to help us learn about the number of white-tail deer infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. In 2020 and 2021, several small studies conducted in Iowa and Ohio showed nearly one-third of the deer tested had been infected with SARS-CoV-2. It has been shown that white-tailed deer can spread the virus to other white-tailed deer. There is currently no evidence that you can get COVID-19 by preparing or eating food, including wild hunted game meat in the United States. 

Hunters are always encouraged to use good hygiene practices when processing animals to reduce their risk of being exposed to many germs that can cause disease. Hunters can use the following safety measures to help reduce the risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other diseases. 

  • Do not harvest animals that appear sick or are found dead. 
  • Keep the carcass and meat clean. Cool the meat as soon as possible after harvesting the animal.
  • When handling and cleaning the carcass:
    • Wear rubber or disposable gloves. 
    • Wear a mask. 
    • Do not eat, drink, or smoke.
  • Limit cutting through the backbone and spinal tissues to only what is necessary (for example, to submit the head for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing). Do not eat the brain.
  • Limit cutting into and handling the lungs, throat, and mouth/nasal cavity to only what is necessary (for example, submitting a head for CWD testing). 
  • When finished handling the carcass:
    • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. 
    • Wash all knives, equipment, and surfaces that were in contact with the cracass with soap and water and also use a disinfectant.
  • If you are immunocompromised, consider asking for assistance with carcass processing and handling. 
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher.
  • Have your deer tested for CWD, especially if it was harvested from a county where CWD-positive deer have been previously detected. Do not consume the deer meat until you have received a result indicating no CWD was detected.

See current information related to studies of white-tailed deer and SARS-CoV-2, by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Emerging Wildlife Disease webpage.

We have the tools to protect people from COVID-19

Pets usually get COVID-19 after they were exposed to someone who is sick. When you are protected from COVID-19, your pets will be too.

  • Stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • If you have symptoms, test positive, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, follow isolation and quarantine recommendations and avoid contact with your pets.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask or respiratory indoors in counties with a high COVID-19 Community Level and during travel. 
  • Talk to a doctor about your eligibilty for therapeutics to help prevent severe illness if you test positive for COVID-19.  


211 Wisconsin

Call 211 or 877-947-2211 to get referrals for thousands of services across Wisconsin. For COVID-19 questions, text COVID to 211-211. Language assistance is available.

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Last revised July 26, 2022