OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Humane Society recommends extending your physical distancing measures to include your pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And if you’re sick with COVID-19, you should stop cuddling with your cat or dog to protect them from the virus.

The American Humane Society is reporting the first case of canine coronavirus in America. A North Carolina pug contracted the virus after living in a household with three people who tested positive for COVID-19.

“What we do know is there is a chance of human to pet transmission of the virus,” says Dr. Shelley Hutchings, Chief Veterinarian at the Ottawa Humane Society.

“The animal health implications of this are likely low. We do know that COVID-19 is spread almost exclusively person to person.”

The Ottawa Humane Society and other health officials recommend pet owners “socially distance” their pets during the pandemic.

“So essentially the same way that people are socially distancing themselves and their family, they should be doing that with their pets as well,” said Dr. Hutchings in an interview with

“Keeping your pets indoors, and if they are going outside keeping them on a leash or under your control, and keeping them away from other pets and people outside the home.”

Researchers are still learning more about how COVID-19 could spread between humans and a pet, but Dr. Hutchings says there are two suspected ways.

“One is that they could act as what we call a fomite. Which means that there could be virus deposited onto the outside of the pet, so the hair coat,” said Dr. Hutchings, adding it’s been theorized that a person could get the virus while handling the pet.

There has also been a few confirmed case reports of a pet becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus.

“There’s been some case reports showing that ferrets and some cats may show signs of the virus. Therefore we think the virus would be transmitted if an animal is actually infected with it in similar ways as it would be transmitted between people.”

Dr. Hutchings says symptoms to watch for that your pet may have COVID-19 include any kind of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. If you are concerned your pet has been exposed to COVID-19, you are urged to check in with your veterinarian.

Dr. Hutchings says the recommendation to physical distance your pet doesn’t mean you need to kick Fluffy or Fido off of the couch or out of bed.

“Only if you’re sick with COVID. If you’re testing positive for COVID it is recommended that you limit contact with pets in your home,” said Dr. Hutchings, adding if you've tested positive for COVID-19 there is a chance it could transmit to your pet.

“The socially distancing of your pets is similar to what you’re doing for yourself. Mingling with family members in your own household is permitted. When you’re out and about with your pet...try not to have them interacting with people from outside your home, or with pets from outside your home.”