CDC Expands Social Distancing Guidelines to Include Pets After Some Test Positive for Coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now updated its recommendations for pets during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that they should be social distancing as well. The federal agency said that people should "treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection." Pets should no longer be allowed to interact with other humans or other animals from outside the house.

Pet owners are now being advised to keep cats indoors at all times, and take extreme caution when walking dogs on leashes. The CDC previously noted that COVID-19 did not seem to pass between house pets, but now the agency is changing its tune. As the pandemic spreads, enough positive cases have been confirmed among pets to make public health experts worry that they could be a significant vector for transmitting the virus. Pet owners were devastated by this anxiety-inducing news.

Dog-walkers should now be conscientious of keeping themselves at least six feet away from other people and dogs, and keeping their dog six feet apart from other people and dogs as well. This may pose a problem in some neighborhoods, as a typical dog leash is six feet long. A dog who is not trained to heel may create some spatial challenges.

Sadly, the CDC now strongly urges dog-owners to stay away from public dog parks, where pets could get some exercise and blow off steam. While many public parks are open, social distancing must now be maintained between everyone — including our furry friends.

Perhaps most importantly, the CDC says that people who show symptoms of COVID-19 should now include their pets in their self-quarantine. That means that if one person in a household has symptoms, they should avoid contact with their pets if at all possible until they test negative. That includes "petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding."

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All of these new recommendations follow a gradual rise in positive coronavirus cases among animals in the U.S. It began with a tiger at New York City's Bronx Zoo, who contracted a respiratory illness at the beginning of April, according to a report by PEOPLE. Five tigers and three lions at the zoo have now tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, two house cats in the city tested positive for the virus as well.

Finally, just this week it was revealed that a North Carolina dog — a pug named Winston — tested positive for COVID-19 back on April 1, according to a report by NBC News. Winston was examined at Duke University, where experts are looking more closely at how the virus effects pets. For the latest on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.