What's The Risk Of Getting COVID-19 If I Let Someone Pet My Dog?

In our series "What's the Risk", experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose of transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 4:48 PM, Apr 16, 2020

When it comes to getting sick with COVID-19, you might be thinking about this, and we have too. Mary Shirley Mitchell asks: 

"You are out walking your dog and someone comes up to pet it. What is the risk?" Mitchell said.

Newsy asked the experts: Jason Farley, professor of nursing, an infectious disease-trained nurse epidemiologist, and a nurse practitioner in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins Schools of Nursing and Medicine; Katie Cary, vice president of infection prevention, HCA Continental Division; and Dr. Mary Schmidt, president of Schmidt and Libby Health Advisory Group, a board-certified infectious diseases doctor, associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and clinical faculty at the Northern Virginia Inova. 

A newly published study found the coronavirus can’t replicate easily in dogs, while cats are susceptible to airborne infection. The experts say contracting COVID-19 from someone else petting your dog is a medium risk.

"Early on, we were saying dogs and cats weren't really at risk. Now, we do have some evidence that that at least these tigers where we're getting infected. So unless you're, you know, Joe Exotic and the Tiger King, you should be fine in that regard," Farley said.

"Right now, social distancing is important. So hopefully if they were coming up to pet your dog, they wouldn't be real close to you. But a way to reduce your risk for sure would be to maintain that distance of at least six feet," Cary said.

"You can always go home, take your clothes off and wash your hands or clean —  immediately clean your hands off with Purell so you don't accidentally, on your way home, contaminate yourself," Schmidt said. 

"If that dog owner or the dog lover and you are within that six feet proximity, they do pose the same risk because most likely when they're stopping to pet the dog, they're talking to you, getting your permission. Hopefully both of you are wearing your paper-based mask or cloth mask, as you should be right now outdoors," Farley said.

If you have a question about your risk, email