Good news: No evidence dogs and cats can get coronavirus

It’s still a good idea to wash your hands before and after petting or feeding them, vets say

It’s natural to worry about those you love during a public health scare, and you love your pets.

The good news is that there is no evidence your dog or cat can contract the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said.

» Complete coverage: Coronavirus

The concern arose after a dog in Hong Kong tested “weakly positive” for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"The dog has a low-level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission," Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department wrote in a fact sheet last week.

Veterinarians and WHO said the virus might have been in the dog’s nose, but that doesn’t mean the dog had the coronavirus. The dog belonged to a coronavirus patient.

» Latest Atlanta coronavirus news

Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine whose lab is part of the Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network, told "Samples from the Hong Kong dog had a small number of virus particles present. In an animal with no clinical signs of disease, it's hard to say what this means. It was a single case, and we learned that we need to do a lot more research into the potential of the human SARS-CoV-19 virus to infect animals."

» 7 ways to stay physically active when you're stuck at home

Will Sander, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine, told Business Insider via email: "At this time, people should be minimally concerned about this coronavirus affecting their pets. The virus seems well adapted to spread between people and, therefore, unlikely to jump to dogs or cats."

WHO’s website states that although SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels, possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.

There are no reports of animals in the U.S. being infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.

"While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China," the CDC said. "There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. … However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it's always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals."

This means you can feel free to cuddle up with your dog if you’re working from home or pet your cat if it relieves your stress.

One precaution that does make sense, Business Insider wrote, is stocking up on pet food, drinking water, supplies and any medications along with anything else you'll need during a quarantine.

» Separating coronavirus fact from fiction: Where to get official government information

Explore» Experts provide tips for managing anxiety amid coronavirus outbreak

» Event cancellations in and around metro Atlanta because of coronavirus