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On March 11, 2020, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the virus has spread to countries across the world, the big question concerning pet owners is: can dogs get coronavirus?

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is a threat to dogs. That said, dog owners face the unique responsibility of maintaining their dogs’ health and safety while adhering to increasing recommendations towards social distancing, stay-home orders, and even quarantines.

Due to the uncertain and evolving nature of the pandemic, be sure to stay up to date with local, state, and federal protocols each day, as available information and health recommendations can change as new information becomes available.

Can I Walk My Dog?

Since the early days of the outbreak, when social media showed photos of dogs in masks and full bodysuits, it’s been determined that COVID-19 isn’t a health threat to dogs. While dog ownership has its health benefits, all humans are currently at risk to the coronavirus outbreak. So does that mean you shouldn’t leave your house to let your dog do their business?

First, if you test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed, the Centers for Disease Control recommends limiting contact with your pets.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them

Physical and mental exercise is extremely important for dogs and dog owners alike. If you are allowed to venture outside according to your local area’s stay-home orders, dog owners feeling healthy and well should continue walking their dogs with added safety measures. Wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when you’re walking your dog. Observe any local ordinances concerning curfews.

The CDC also recommends the following for your dog walks:

  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals
  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household

Owners should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after each walk. If you have it, carry and use a pocket-sized bottle of paw-and-hand sanitizer or cleansing wipes during your walks.

Can I Go to the Dog Park?

If you normally take your dog to a crowded dog park or dog run, the CDC is recommending that you avoid these kinds of locations until more is known about SARS-CoV-2.

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather
  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household

Can I Play With My Dog Outside?

For owners fortunate enough to have fenced-in yards, outdoor play is not only acceptable but it’s encouraged. Still, basic hygiene and cleanliness are more important than ever during a pandemic. So, wash hands before and after outdoor play, and you may choose to also wipe your pet’s paws down with dog-safe grooming wipes before they come back inside. Clean hands and paws help limit the spread of all germs, not just coronavirus, so this is always a smart practice.

Keeping Your Dog Active Indoors

While outdoor exercise is still possible for some dog owners during the pandemic, it’s not necessarily an option for everyone. There are plenty of ways to exercise and entertain your dog indoors, including indoor scent games, dog sport training, and even treadmills for dogs.

What Else Can I Do?

The bottom line is that dog owners have a responsibility to be educated, aware, safe, and responsible with their dogs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Life in America has been upended in many ways, and dog ownership is no exception. However, with factual information from trusted sources and common sense safety precautions, dog owners can help guide their pets through this pandemic in a socially responsible way.

And remember: Your dog depends on you to stay safe, healthy, and happy. Don’t fall victim to myths and rumors about dogs and coronavirus. Under no circumstances should you abandon your dog (or other pets) because of COVID-19 fears or panic. If you’re concerned or scared, call your veterinarian so they can help guide you and reassure you.

The AKC is here to help owners with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and dogs. Find answers to your questions, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more on our Coping With COVID-19 hub.

Related article: How to Socialize Your Dog From Home
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