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Veterinary Response Plan: COVID-19 or SARS CoV-2


The virus COVID-19, also called SARS-CoV2 is a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus, with a characteristic ‘corona’ (crown) of spike proteins around their outer surface (envelope). Many coronaviruses have been identified in animals and humans, but very few are considered zoonotic pathogens, causing disease in both animals and humans. Current scientific findings suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 may have originated from an animal source since the genetic structure is similar to other coronaviruses previously found in bats. Investigations into the origin of the virus, and how it began causing respiratory disease in humans are ongoing.


There have been several isolated cases of domestic dogs and cats and most notably a tiger at the Bronx Zoo which have tested positive for the virus causing COVID-19 following close contact with infected humans. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has designated COVID-19 as a reportable animal disease. There are multiple ongoing studies to determine which animal species are susceptible to infection with the COVID-19 virus, and if animals may transmit the virus to other animals, including people. Recent studies (not peer-reviewed) from China have reported COVID-19 replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, but efficiently in ferrets and cats. In addition, the study shows the virus transmits in cats and ferrets via respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. All evidence indicates that the spread of COVID-19 infections in humans across the globe is caused by person-to-person contact.

How and When to Test Animals for SARS-CoV2

Individuals should consult their veterinarian with any questions about an animal’s health. If the animal has been exposed to a person infected with the virus causing COVID-19, and is displaying any symptoms that may be consistent with COVID-19 infection (mild respiratory symptoms, cough, wheezing, mild depression, decreased appetite, loose stool/diarrhea), the veterinarian should contact Dr. Gerlach or Dr. Coburn at the Office of the State Veterinarian

Center of Disease Control (CDC), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), nor American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that animals be routinely tested for COVID-19. The Federal Guidance issued by the USDA regarding animal testing for COVID-19 requires that any testing request would need to be approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation - Office of the State Veterinarian, the Department of Health and Social Services and the USDA-Veterinary Services. Additional information on testing protocol can be found here. At this time there are no commercial laboratories offering this testing, but several of the USDA National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) labs can perform COVID-19 tests for animals.  All animal tests results will be confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, IA and sent to the State Veterinarian who will then send a report to the veterinarian submitting the sample.

The State Animal Health Response Plan: COVID-19 will only permit licensed veterinarians to submit samples from domestic pets once the request is approved by the State and USDA. Samples from any livestock species will be collected by USDA accredited veterinarians or State Animal Health Officials. Veterinarians collecting samples will use the appropriate personal protective equipment and sample collection methods established by the OIE recommendations according to established collection protocols.

  1. State Guidelines for animals from a home/farm with a Positive Human Case of COVID-19
    1. Domestic Pets should be kept in home isolation and monitored for a minimum of 2 weeks following the CDC guidance. The pet may be released after the owner has been cleared by public health officials.
    2. Domestic Livestock – Humans infected with COVID-19 should not be monitoring or caring for livestock. These individuals need to wear a face mask and any other appropriate personal protective equipment if they are around livestock, their food or supplies and wash their hands before and after handling the animals. 
    3. Sheltering Animals Exposed to COVID-19 outside the affected household recommendations for friends/family members caring for exposed pets when the owners are unable to have been developed by the CDC, AVMA and the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA).

      Additional guidance can be found at the following CDC specific sites:

  2. State Response to Positive Animal Test for COVID-19
    1. Domestic Pets testing (+) for COVID-19 will be placed in home isolation and monitored for a minimum of 2 weeks. The home isolation will be over seen by the local veterinarian who will be in contact with the State Animal Health Officials during the isolation period. These guidelines may change dependent on new research data or guidance from USDA or CDC.

      Management of COVID-19 positive animals

      • AVMA guidance concerning the management of animals.
      • The AVMA guidance suggests dogs should be walked outside for elimination and exercise but avoid direct contact with other companion as a best practice to protect animal health.
      • Feces should be collected using gloved hands or a bag and disposed of immediately.
      • Ideally, these dogs should be walked in an area that can be readily sanitized in a dedicated area separate from the general animal population.
    2. Livestock Species testing (+) for COVID-19 (cattle, swine, horses, reindeer, yaks, bison, sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca, poultry, ducks, geese, game birds) and all livestock on the farm will be held in isolation with a Hold Order issued by the Office of the State Veterinarian and not to be moved from the owners property for a minimum of 2 weeks for observation. This procedure may change as more scientific information is obtained. Owners will be instructed to follow AVMA and CDC guidance (above).

Additional Resources

Conservation of PPE

Cleaning and Disinfection

According to the CDC the coronavirus can survive in the air up to 3 hours, on copper up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, on stainless steel and plastic up to 72 hours. (Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS COV-1. )                                        

General Information

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