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No, veterinarians are not giving pets the COVID-19 vaccine

Pets sometimes receive a “corona vaccine” but that is for a different type of respiratory infection and not used to protect against COVID-19.
Credit: New Africa (Adobe Stock)

Cats, dogs and a few other mammals can become infected with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The public health agency says most of the animals who became infected did so after coming in close contact with a person with COVID-19. 

In a now-deleted Reddit post, a user said they recently took their dog to the veterinarian and noticed a charge for the “Corona Vaccine” on their bill. That led the dog owner to ask if pets are being used to pump the coronavirus vaccine numbers. 

THE QUESTION

Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for pets?

THE SOURCES

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Bill Price, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Zoetis
  • Dr. Karen Pearson, Veterinarian

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, there is no COVID-19 vaccine for pets, but there are pet-specific coronavirus vaccines unrelated to COVID-19. 

WHAT WE FOUND

On its website, the CDC breaks down what coronaviruses are and who or what they can affect: 

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect people.”

Dr. Karen Pearson, a veterinarian based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, told VERIFY “the coronavirus vaccines and the viruses themselves are very different. People cannot contract the coronaviruses that dogs and cats get.” 

Pearson says there is a respiratory infection and an enteric, or intestinal, infection associated with canine coronavirus

“The coronavirus vaccine used to be a routinely given vaccine, but we have not seen this respiratory disease in dogs very often so many practices have stopped giving it,” she said. “It was traditionally part of a core combination vaccine called ‘distemper.’ It is somewhat of a misnomer because distemper is only one of the viruses the vaccine prevents.” 

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, to people at this time.

“Based on the available information to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC says. 

The risk is so low that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not considering applications for COVID-19 vaccines for cats and dogs at this time, Bill Price, the vice president of Corporate Communications at Zoetis told VERIFY. 

Zoetis is one of the largest producers of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock in the world. Price says the company stands ready if a need is determined based on its initial research, however, nothing has changed in terms of its development of a COVID-19 vaccine for pets.

“If government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, determine there is a need for such a vaccine in animals, we are prepared to act quickly and further develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for cats and dogs, and other species as needed,” said Price. 

The CDC provides a list of tips on how pet owners can protect their pets if they get sick with COVID-19 or if their pet becomes infected with the disease on its website

VERIFY
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