Our Pets Can Get Monkeypox, So Here's How To Keep Them Safe

The first suspected case has been reported.

With news of the monkeypox virus currently making headlines, pet owners want to know: Can dogs get monkeypox? And what about cats?

Declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June, there are currently over 11,000 confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And based on the first suspected case of human-to-dog monkeypox transmission, the CDC has a message for pet parents — if you contract monkeypox, stay away from your pets for 21 days to avoid transmission:

  • Infected people should not take care of exposed pets.
  • The person with monkeypox should avoid close contact with the exposed pet, and when possible, ask another household member to care for the animal until the person with monkeypox is fully recovered.
  • Cats and dogs should be kept under household isolation with regular checkups to ensure no signs of monkeypox have appeared.
  • Pocket pets (like hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should also be removed for a quarantine period of three weeks to test and remove the infection, as they’re actually much more likely to carry the virus and pass it to humans (per the UK Health Security Agency).

There’s still a lot scientists don’t know about how this virus spreads, but with this first suspected case detected, pet parents should be on alert.

We spoke with Dr. Hilary Jones, veterinarian and chief veterinary officer at DodoVet, and Dr. Ruth MacPete, a veterinarian and media personality, for more insight on pets and monkeypox.

Can dogs and cats get monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus in the Poxiviridae family, which also contains smallpox, cowpox, rabbitpox and other viruses. In general, most mammals (including dogs, cats and humans) are susceptible to poxviruses, meaning that, yes, your dog or cat could get monkeypox.

In a medical journal published last week, scientists reported that they’d found evidence of human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox. But this isn’t the first time animals have contracted the virus.

“In 2003, monkeypox was found in several midwestern states after 47 people became infected after having contact with pet prairie dogs, an animal closely related to squirrels,” Dr. MacPete told The Dodo. “The prairie dogs were thought to have become infected when they were housed near infected small mammals from Ghana.”

Based on the latest transmission news and monkeypox’s past history, according to Dr. MacPete and Dr. Jones, we may see more positive cases in the future.

“At this time, we don’t know exactly what the reservoir host is for monkeypox, though we know that small mammals, like rats, squirrels and prairie dogs, as well as non-human primates play a role. And we do know the most common form of transmission is from animals to people through direct contact or a bite,” Dr. Jones told The Dodo.

And unfortunately, similar to COVID-19, animals with monkeypox won’t always show signs that they’re sick.

“Some animals can be carriers of viruses and not get sick, or some can be carriers and get sick (hosts), and lastly, others can get the virus but can’t pass it on to others (dead end hosts),” Dr. Jones said. “We don’t have the research at this time to know where dogs and cats fall on this list.”

We continue to learn more every day about pets and monkeypox. If cases continue to grow, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dog or cat and your own health.

Symptoms of monkeypox to look for in your pets:

  • Lesions/rash
  • Cough and other respiratory signs
  • Fever
  • Conjunctivitis (aka pink eye)
  • Decreased appetite

Reach out to your veterinarian with your concerns if any of these signs appear in your pet.

Signs of monkeypox in humans:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Papules/pustules

If you experience any of the above signs, please call your physician and let them know you have a pet in the home. As noted above, although the risk of monkeypox transmission from humans to their pets is low, the CDC advises confirmed cases to avoid contact with any household pets for 21 days just to be safe.

With monkeypox cases on the rise, it’s a good idea to stay informed, especially as we learn more about pets and monkeypox. Here’s to being the best pet parent you can be, and keeping both of you healthy!

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.