Moosh - ESA owner with dog

The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting people’s lives since early 2020. With widespread safety measures put in place, the spread of the infection has begun to slow in many areas in 2021, but the lifting of lockdown measures has seen many areas experience second or even third waves of the outbreak.

With the risk of illness still high, health officials, researchers, and scientists have been in a race against the clock to develop a vaccine so that the world can return to a semblance of normalcy. There are currently three approved vaccines, and over 70 million people are fully vaccinated across the globe at the time of writing. But with vaccine rollouts underway, what does that mean for you emotional support animal? If you’ve been wondering “Will I need to vaccinate my ESA against COVID?”, read on to find out.

Can pets get COVID-19?

Though there haven’t been many reports of pets becoming infected with COVID-19, a small number of animals, including cats and dogs, have been infected with the virus. According to the CDC, these infections occurred in pets after they had close contact with people who had contracted COVID-19. There is limited research in the area of pets and COVID-19, but it has been proven that a pet can in fact get the virus.

Of the pets that have been documented to have COVID-19, many showed only mild symptoms and completely recovered. The remaining number were found to exhibit no symptoms at all. The good news is that if your pet does contract the virus, the symptoms are not likely to be life-threatening.

Moosh - wearing mask around pets
Image by Ying Ge on Unsplash: Keeping your pets away from those who may be exposed to the virus is the best way to keep them safe.

Can pets transmit the coronavirus disease?

Although there is limited information regarding the spread of COVID-19 from pets to people, there is sufficient evidence to support that people can transfer the disease to their pets. This means that if you are sick, you should treat your pet as you would any other family member and avoid contact as much as possible. Avoid cuddling, kissing, petting, or sharing food with your pet. Wear a mask and always wash your hands prior to feeding your pet. 

The risk of pets spreading COVID-19 may be low; however, people at greater risk of severe complications may be more susceptible to the spread because they are more likely to fall ill from germs that pets carry. To help limit the risk of your pet getting the virus, you can practice the same distancing measures with them as you do for yourself. This means limiting contact with others from outside your household, avoiding busy dog parks and other places where people and their pets may gather, keeping your pet away from people while out walking, and staying at home as much as possible.

Can pets be vaccinated against COVID?

Now that vaccines for COVID have arrived and are being administered to priority groups, many people are patiently waiting for their turn to get vaccinated. Once 70% of the population becomes vaccinated, herd immunity should begin to kick in, and this will allow things to return to a new post-COVID normal. When it comes to pets, though, the current vaccines cannot be used on animals, because they have all been created specifically for humans.

Currently, there is no COVID-19 vaccine in development that will help animals avoid the infection. This is likely due to the extremely low risk of them passing it on to humans, as well as the mild infection they experience when they do become infected with the virus. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the government organization that grants commercial licenses for pet vaccines, there is no need for a vaccine because “data does not indicate that such a vaccine would have value.”

This doesn’t mean that companies won’t explore the need for a COVID-19 vaccine for pets, but they will not be able to sell them if they are created without a license.

Moosh - wearing mask next to dog
Image by Henry Lai on Unsplash: Wearing a mask around your pet may help to reduce their risk of getting the virus. 

What vaccinations do pets need?

Pets require a set of different vaccinations to help protect them from diseases other than COVID-19. Vaccines for pets are split up into two different categories: core and non-core. Core vaccines are considered to be crucial to your pet’s health. The rabies shot, for example, is a core vaccine that is required by law. Other examples of core vaccines include the distemper, hepatitis, and parvovirus vaccines.

Non-core vaccines are typically given to pets that have an increased risk for exposure to certain illnesses. Examples of diseases that can be prevented with the administration of non-core vaccines include Lyme disease, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, coronavirus (not COVID-19), bordetella, and giardia.

Even without a COVID-19 vaccine for your pets, you can still keep them safe from the illness by practicing all the same safety measures you would with humans. And even if your pet does come down with COVID, it should be calming to know that they aren’t likely to fall seriously ill, and that there’s no evidence to suggest they can pass on the virus to you.

Featured image by Eric Ward on Unsplash