Until we know more about how the coronavirus impacts animals, social distancing guidelines are now being recommended for family pets in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday.
Those guidelines include having pet owners take precautions to treat their companions like “family members” during the pandemic, and not let them interact with people or other animals outside the household.
“Social distancing applies to your pets too,” said Veterinary Specialist Dr. Melissa Salgado, according to ABC News. “They are at risk of developing this disease so it’s best to err on the side of caution.”
The agency recommends walking dogs on a leash at least six feet from other people or animals and keeping cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other people.
If you’re sick with COVID-19 or suspected to have the virus the CDC says to limit contact with pets and other animals, “just like you would around other people.”
The new guidelines come after the agency announced two pet cats in the U.S. had become infected with the virus last week, although officials told the news organization there is no need to send your pet away if you become sick.
“Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding,” the CDC said.
If infected or suspected to have the virus, the best practice is to have another member of the household take care of your pet, according to the agency. If that’s not possible, you should wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.
Dog parks or other public places where animals or people may gather should also be avoided.
Routine testing of animals is not recommended at this time, the CDC said, adding that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will post findings should other animals test positive for the virus in the U.S.
Even with the new recommendations, the agency said there is no evidence pets play a role in spreading the virus in the U.S.
“Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected,” the CDC added.