Why Don’t We Have a Covid Vaccine for Pets?

Over the past year, coronavirus vaccines have gone into billions of human arms — and into the fuzzy haunches of an ark’s worth of zoo animals. Jaguars are getting the jab. Bonobos are being dosed. So are orangutans and otters, ferrets and fruit bats, and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!).

Largely left behind, however, are two creatures much closer to home: domestic cats and dogs.

Pet owners have noticed.

“I get so many questions about this issue,” Dr. Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “Will there be a vaccine? When will there be a vaccine?”

Technically, a pet vaccine is feasible. In fact, several research teams say that they have already developed promising cat or dog vaccines; the shots that zoo animals are receiving were initially designed for dogs.

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

In February 2020, a Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Other cases in cats and dogs soon popped up. Since then, scientists have learned a lot more about how the virus affects our pets.

Here’s what you need to know →

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

Can I give the virus to my pets?

Yes. Humans can transmit the virus to their pets the same way they transmit it to other people: through tiny, respiratory droplets. Most dogs and cats that catch the virus appear to get it from infected humans in their household.

Cats are more likely to become infected than dogs, for reasons that scientists do not completely understand. (Biology and behavior may both play a role.)

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

Can my pets give the virus to me?

There have been no documented cases of cats or dogs transmitting the virus to humans. And there are few signs that these animals readily pass the virus to each other.

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

What are the symptoms in pets?

Most have no symptoms at all. Those that do get sick typically have mild symptoms, which may include coughing, sneezing or diarrhea.

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

Should I vaccinate my pet?

Although scientists have developed promising vaccine candidates for cats and dogs, there are no pet vaccines approved in the United States. And regulators are not currently accepting applications for cat or dog vaccines.

Scientists say that a pet vaccine is unnecessary because cats and dogs do not get very sick from the virus and do not readily transmit it to humans or other animals.

What to Know About the Coronavirus in Pets

How can I protect my pet?

If you test positive for the virus, isolate yourself from your pets. And get vaccinated yourself. If you don’t become infected with the virus, your pets are exceedingly unlikely to catch it.

Read more about why we don’t have a pet vaccine here. Or check out these stories:

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