Can Dogs and Cats get Monkeypox?
Written by Small Door's medical experts
With monkeypox becoming a concern due to the recent spread of the virus in the United States, many pet owners are wondering how this disease might affect their own cats and dogs. Read on to find out more about how monkeypox may affect your dog or cat and what steps you can take to keep your furry family members safe and healthy.
In this article
Monkeypox, also known as Mpox, is a disease spread by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the Poxvidrae family. Related viruses in the same genus group include the virus that causes smallpox (variola virus) and cowpox.
The monkeypox virus was initially discovered in 1958, after two outbreaks occurred in an animal research setting. It was first found in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The infection may cause a small, blister-type rash and severe flu-like symptoms.
The name “monkeypox” is misleading: it is believed that the origin of this virus was most likely transmitted via African rodents, not monkeys. In 2003, an outbreak of monkeypox stemming from contact with infected prairie dogs brought the disease to the United States from Africa. As of February 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 30,193 confirmed human monkeypox cases in the U.S. and 32 deaths in the current 2022-2023 outbreak.
Currently, it is known that two dogs have become infected with the monkeypox virus. It is unclear if only certain species of dogs may be susceptible. Whether felines have been infected is still unknown at this time, but according to Veterinary Partner, any mammal may become infected if they are in contact with an animal or person who is infected. Both dogs and cats have been infected by other orthopoxviruses.
Pox viruses may infect a variety of different mammals in addition to people. Currently, it is unknown to what extent monkeypox infects animals or which animals are at highest risk. However, it appears that the animals most vulnerable to infection are rodents and non-human primates (such as monkeys and chimps).
Monkeypox has been known to infect a variety of mammals, including hedgehogs, squirrels, shrews, anteaters, and prairie dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At this time, it does not appear that it affects amphibians or birds.
Domesticated animals can be at risk of contracting the disease if they live in the same household as an infected person or animal, or have come from the same facility/shelter/pet store as another infected animal or person.
Yes, animals can catch monkeypox from their human owners through physical contact, such as licking or touching any rashes or lesions on your skin.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic viral disease, which means that it is transmissible between animals and humans. Humans become infected with monkeypox via contact with the virus through mucous membranes (mouth, eyes, nose, genitals, rectum, anus), the respiratory tract, or through broken skin. Humans can catch monkeypox through close contact or handling an infected animal.
Ways to avoid transmission from an exposed or infected animal
Do not touch any rashes or lesions on your dog’s or cat’s skin.
Wear latex/rubber gloves or protective clothing if you must have direct contact with a potentially infected cat or dog.
Avoid touching any clothing, blankets or linens, or materials that may be contaminated and/or that were in direct contact with lesions or bodily fluids.
Practice good hygiene. If you need to touch these items, be sure to wear gloves and then wash your hands immediately afterward using soap and water.
Symptoms of monkeypox in cats and dogs may include the following:
Discharge or pus from the eyes or nose
Swollen lymph nodes
A blister-like rash or bumpy rash on the skin
Loss of appetite
It is important to note that not all infected animals will display a skin rash or lesions.
To keep your pet safe, avoid contact with any people or animals that have been recently exposed to the monkeypox virus. If you suspect you have been exposed, avoid petting, hugging, and kissing your pet.
Also, do not share a sleeping area or food with your pet after any suspected exposure. Do not allow your pet to come into contact with unknown feces or urine, as the virus may possibly be transmitted through both.
What to do if your pet has been exposed to monkeypox
If you or a person or animal within your home has been exposed to monkeypox, notify your primary care provider or veterinarian as soon as possible.
Take the following steps:
Minimize contact between the infected person/animal and any other animals/people within the home.
Have only one person within the home handle the caretaking duties of feeding, watering and cleaning up waste. The infected person should also not take care of any exposed pets.
Notify your veterinarian of any possible exposure prior to bringing your dog or cat into the office for an exam.
Do not allow pets on furniture used by infected humans.
Do not take exposed or infected pets to the groomer, dog parks, or pet stores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends isolating and/or quarantining the infected cat or dog for 21 days after exposure.
Do not take your pet outside of the home if they have been exposed. This minimizes their contact with any outside animals or humans.
Clean and disinfect all bedding, food and water bowls, cages, food containers, and washable toys.
When cleaning, first use a household detergent to clean the surface of the item. Then, use a disinfectant. To disinfect, Veterinary Partner recommends using a solution of ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling any potentially contaminated objects.
Detailed information about monkeypox in animals can be found at the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The recent monkeypox outbreak may have pet parents concerned about the health of your dog or cat. While experts still have a lot to learn about the monkeypox virus and its effect on dogs and cats, there are steps you can take to keep both yourself and your pets safe, like avoiding contact with infected people or animals, watching for signs and symptoms, and contacting your veterinarian for guidance.