A few diagnostic labs in North America are now offering testing in animals for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Testing capacity is great to have and I’m glad some labs have geared up tests. BUT routine testing of pets, healthy or sick, isn’t something we’re recommending, for a few key reasons.
Testing as part of organized surveillance studies of pets exposed to infected people makes sense, as it helps us figure out more about this virus. It could also be used in investigation of unexpected human cases, to rule out an animal sources.
Otherwise, testing won’t change much (and would likely only serve to increase people’s stress and anxiety, which is high enough already). Ultimately we don’t have specific treatments for pets (or people for that matter). If we do a good job isolating pets of infected people alongside their owners, we’re containing any virus to the household, regardless of who’s infected.
Furthermore, if a pet’s been exposed, what we want to do is keep it away from people, not truck it off to a vet clinic. If we think there’s enough chance that a pet is infected that we should test it, we need to handle it like it’s infectious, something that most clinics either don’t want to do or are not equipped to do.
It’s a great test to have on hand for surveillance purposes, but it shouldn’t be used routinely. If you think your pet’s been exposed, you probably have been too, so enjoy each other’s company at home.