COVID-19 is a newly emerged coronavirus. SARS and MERS, other recently emerged human coronaviruses, originated in horseshoe bats and passed through other species, such as palm civet and camels. The definitive source of COVID-19 has still to be determined, but it is also thought to have originated in a bat, and then passed through an intermediate host, possibly a pangolin. This probably occurred at a wet market in Wuhan, China, where many animal species were kept close together, in unhygienic circumstances.
A very small number of pets worldwide have been reported to be infected with COVID-19 after close contact with infected people. There is no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
Pet owners with COVID-19 should minimise interaction with their pets and where possible, have someone else care for them. If there is no alternative carer, people should distance themselves from their animals as much as practical, and not stroke or cuddle, allow the animal to lick them or share food. And wash their hands before and after interactions.
Animals, including therapy animals and their handlers, should not visit nursing homes, schools, or other institutions at this time.
There is much misinformation being disseminated about COVID-19, especially via the Internet. Sadly, some politicians are adding to the confusion. Reliable updated information is available on the websites of reputable organisations including World Health Organisation, Defra/Apha, Centers for Disease Control and the World Organisation for Animal Health. A selection of their relevant references is provided here: