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Newswest 9 | Midland, Texas | newswest9.com

Texas has most reported pets with COVID-19 in the country

While it is rare, COVID-19 can spread to pets. Health officials say protecting your animals like you would humans can help keep them from getting the virus.

Texas currently has the most reported cases of pets with the COVID-19 virus, according to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most pet cases worldwide happens after close contact with people who have COVID-19. 

Based on CDC research, it appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations.

The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low, according to the CDC.

The health institute also says people sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals.

If someone has to care for a pet or be around animals while sick, the CDC says to wear a mask and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.

There have currently been 61 pets confirmed to have the COVID-19 virus by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Fifty-eight of the animals had exposure to a probable or confirmed human with the COVID-19 virus. 

The COVID-19 status of humans associated with the other three cases is unknown or under investigation.

Of those 61 cases, nearly a third are from Texas, which has 19.

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Every animal case isn't necessarily counted. If more than one of the same species in the same home are diagnosed with the virus, that is counted as one case. 

For example, a pet owner with three cats that each test positive for the disease would be counted as one case. If someone has a dog and a cat and both test positive, that would count as two cases, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The best way to protect your pets is to treat them like you would humans you are trying to protect from the disease, according to Dr. Phillip Huang, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services Director.

A part of that includes 6 feet of social distance for pets, too.

"If people are sick with COVID-19, they should really keep away from their pets," Huang said.

Huang also said keeping cats indoors and walking dogs with leashes can ensure they are staying 6 feet away from people.

If your pet does test positive for the COVID-19 virus, the CDC says to isolate the pet from everyone else, including other pets.

The CDC also says not to put a mask on animals because this could harm your pet.

The health institute has no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur or hair of pets.

While most of the USDA's cases are dogs and cats, one tiger, one lion and 11 minks have also tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The USDA is required to report confirmed animal infections to the Organisation for Animal Health.