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USDA warns COVID-19 patients to quarantine from pets as well as family

A local veterinarian said while the chances are low, your pet could catch the virus.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s small, but there is a chance you could pass COVID-19 onto your pet.

Sunday, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the virus, after its handler also contracted it.

RELATED: Tiger at New York City's Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends quarantining from your pets, as well as your family, if you test positive for the virus.

“The probability of a pet catching the coronavirus is fairly small,” said Steven McBride, medical director at Cascade Hospital for Animals. "And even more the probability of him being able to transmit that virus is even smaller yet.”

McBride says while slim, there is the chance. However, no American house pets have tested positive for the virus.

“I think we need to take precautions, just as we would with people,” said McBride. “If you’re showing symptoms or positive, then you need to distance yourself from pets, as well as people.”

More so than the animal catching or transmitting the disease, they could act as a surface for the virus to spread. If someone has the virus and pets a dog, that dog could keep the virus in its hair until the next person pets it and contracts the virus.

McBride said cats and ferrets are more susceptible, but it could still be passed onto dogs.

“Ferrets probably represent our highest threat from transmission,” said McBride. “We don’t know that for sure with this particular coronavirus, but it’s been true in previous coronavirus, SARS virus and MRSA virus, which cats could also catch.”

He said that’s probably why the tiger at the zoo was the first to catch it.

“Bottom line, right now, my concern is other people,” said McBride. “I’m much more concerned about being infected by a client than I am from being infected by a patient. I’m much more concerned about bringing the virus home to my wife than I am to my cat.”

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