Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on animals

Last updated

Dogs are capable of becoming infected with COVID-19. They are also capable of cheering up lonely caretakers during lockdowns. German shepherd enjoying the sun.jpg
Dogs are capable of becoming infected with COVID-19. They are also capable of cheering up lonely caretakers during lockdowns.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected animals directly and indirectly. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is zoonotic, which likely to have originated from animals such as bats and pangolins. [1] [2] [3] Human impact on wildlife and animal habitats may be causing such spillover events to become much more likely. [4] [5] The largest incident to date was the culling of 14 to 17 million mink in Denmark after it was discovered that they were infected with a mutant strain of the virus. [6] [7]


While research is inconclusive, pet owners reported that their animals contributed to better mental health and lower loneliness during COVID-19 lockdowns. [8] [9] However, this could have adverse effects on pet animals. [10]


SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have zoonotic origins and has close genetic similarity to bat coronaviruses, suggesting it emerged from a bat-borne virus. [11] [12] [13] [14]


A small number of pet animals have been infected. There have been several cases of zoo animals testing positive for the virus, and some became sick. Cats, dogs, ferrets, fruit bats, gorillas, hamsters, minks, sea otters, pumas, snow leopards, tigers, tree shrews and whitetail deer can be infected with and have tested positive at least once for the virus. [3] According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of transmission from animals to humans and vice versa is considerably low but further studies are yet to be conducted. [3] Mice were initially unsusceptible but researchers showed that a type of mutation (called aromatic substitution in position 501 or position 498 but not both) in the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein can mouse-adapt the novel Coronavirus. [15]

Animal deaths due to the disease are confirmed to have occurred. [16] [17]

Asiatic lions

The Nehru Zoological Park reported that eight Asiatic lions have contracted the virus. The samples were taken on March 24, 2021, after the lions showed signs of respiratory distress. [18]


In August 2021, the U.S. National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in wild white-tailed deer in the state of Ohio. [19]


In January 2021, a troop of eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for COVID-19 after being infected by a zookeeper who was asymptomatic. The gorillas were the first confirmed and known cases of COVID-19 in apes. [20]


White minks on a farm in Poland DSC 0377 (8413679878).jpg
White minks on a farm in Poland

Cluster 5, a variant of SARS-CoV-2, was found in mink populations and some employees in North Jutland, Denmark in early November 2020. The Danish government culled an estimated 14 million mink as a preventive measure. [21] [22] A wild mink in Utah was discovered to be infected with COVID-19, confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [23]

Snow leopards

A unvaccinated 9-year-old male snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus in late July 2021. The staff noticed the leopard had a cough and a runny nose. The caretakers confirmed the diagnosis with two separate stool tests. [20]

Human–animal interaction

Reduced human presence has the potential to bring both relief and disruption to different animal habitats. It may lead to more poaching of endangered wildlife. [24] Wild animals have been observed relaxing their avoidance of human habitats while COVID-19 lockdowns are in effect, [25] and with instances like severe mouse plague co-occurring with mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 virus variants circulating. [15]

Decreased roadkill incidence has been reported during lockdowns, including a significant decrease in roadkill deaths for mountain lions in California. [26]

Related Research Articles

Zoonosis Disease that can be transmitted from other species to humans

A zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from an animal to a human. Typically, the first infected human transmits the infectious agent to at least one other human, who, in turn, infects others.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome Disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the first identified strain of the SARS coronavirus species severe acute respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV). The syndrome caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak. Around late 2017, Chinese scientists traced the virus through the intermediary of Asian palm civets to cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in Xiyang Yi Ethnic Township, Yunnan.

Coronavirus Subfamily of viruses in the family Coronaviridae

Coronaviruses are a group of related RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans and birds, they cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. Mild illnesses in humans include some cases of the common cold, while more lethal varieties can cause SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. In cows and pigs they cause diarrhea, while in mice they cause hepatitis and encephalomyelitis.

Professor Malik Peiris FRS, d'Honneur, is a Sri Lankan pathologist and virologist. He has been long based in Hong Kong. His research interests include ecology, evolution, pathogenesis, epidemiology of animal-human influenza and other human respiratory viral infections, authoring over 320 research publications. Peiris is most notable for being the first person to isolate SARS virus.

COVID-19 pandemic Ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019; a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in surrounding Hubei failed to contain the outbreak, and it quickly spread to other parts of mainland China and around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Multiple variants of the virus have emerged and become dominant in many countries since 2021, with the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants being the most virulent. As of 21 October 2021, more than 242 million cases and 4.92 million deaths have been confirmed, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 Virus that causes COVID-19

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2), also known as the coronavirus, is the virus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory illness responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The virus was previously referred to by its provisional name, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and has also been called human coronavirus 2019. First identified in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. SARS‑CoV‑2 is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus that is contagious in humans. As described by the US National Institutes of Health, it is the successor to SARS-CoV-1, the virus that caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak.

Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market Market in Wuhan, Hubei, China

The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, simply known as the Huanan Seafood Market, was a live animal and seafood market in Jianghan District, Wuhan City, the capital of Hubei Province in Central China.

COVID-19 Contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The disease has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 testing Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus infection

COVID-19 testing involves analyzing samples to assess the current or past presence of SARS-CoV-2. The two main branches detect either the presence of the virus or of antibodies produced in response to infection. Molecular tests for viral presence through its molecular components are used to diagnose individual cases and to allow public health authorities to trace and contain outbreaks. Antibody tests instead show whether someone once had the disease. They are less useful for diagnosing current infections because antibodies may not develop for weeks after infection. It is used to assess disease prevalence, which aids the estimation of the infection fatality rate.

COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in the UK

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019. The virus reached the UK in late January 2020. As of 13 October 2021, there have been 8,630,076 confirmed cases and 139,444 deaths among people who had recently tested positive – the world's 22nd highest death rate by population, and with the most overall cases and second-highest death toll in Europe after Russia. There has been some disparity between the outbreak's severity in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – health-care in the UK is a devolved matter. Each constituent country has its own publicly-funded healthcare system operated by devolved governments.

COVID-19 pandemic in South America Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in South America

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have reached South America on 26 February 2020 when Brazil confirmed a case in São Paulo. By 3 April, all countries and territories in South America had recorded at least one case.

COVID-19 pandemic in Greenland Ongoing COVID-19 viral pandemic in Greenland

The COVID-19 pandemic in Greenland is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The virus was confirmed to have spread to Greenland, an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, in March 2020. There have been 13 confirmed cases, but none were in need of hospitalization. Among the first 11, the last infected person had recovered on 8 April and Greenland had no known active cases. After a period of time without any new confirmed cases, one was confirmed on 24 May when a person tested positive at the entry into the territory, and another was confirmed at entry on 27 May.

COVID-19 in pregnancy Overview about the effects of COVID-19 infection on pregnancy

The effect of COVID-19 infection on pregnancy is not completely known because of the lack of reliable data. If there is increased risk to pregnant women and fetuses, so far it has not been readily detectable.

Transmission of COVID-19 Mechanisms that spread coronavirus disease 2019

The transmission of COVID-19 is the passing of coronavirus disease 2019 from person to person. The disease is mainly transmitted via the respiratory route when people inhale droplets and small airborne particles that infected people breath out as they breathe, talk, cough, sneeze, or sing. Infected people are more likely to transmit COVID-19 when they are physically close. However, infection can occur over longer distances, particularly indoors. 2).

Bat coronavirus RaTG13 is a SARS-like betacoronavirus that infects the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus affinis. It was discovered in 2013 in bat droppings from a mining cave near the town of Tongguan in Mojiang county in Yunnan, China. As of 2021, it is the second closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Cluster 5 Variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

"Cluster 5", also referred to as ΔFVI-spike by the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI), is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that is believed to be extinct. It was discovered in North Jutland, Denmark, and is believed to have been spread from minks to humans via mink farms. On 4 November 2020, it was announced that the mink population in Denmark would be culled to prevent the possible spread of this mutation and reduce the risk of new mutations happening. A lockdown and travel restrictions were introduced in seven municipalities of North Jutland to prevent the mutation from spreading, which could compromise national or international responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SARS-CoV-2 Alpha variant Variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

The Alpha variant, also known as lineage B.1.1.7, is a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. One of several variants of concern, the variant is estimated to be 40–80% more transmissible than the wild-type SARS-CoV-2. It was first detected in November 2020 from a sample taken in September in the United Kingdom, and began to spread quickly by mid-December, around the same time as infections surged. This increase is thought to be at least partly because of one or more mutations in the virus' spike protein. The variant is also notable for having more mutations than normally seen.

Variants of SARS-CoV-2 Notable variants of SARS-CoV-2

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has many variants; some are believed, or have been believed, to be of particular importance due to their potential for increased transmissibility, increased virulence, or reduced effectiveness of vaccines against them.

Investigations into the origin of COVID-19 Inquiries into the origins of SARS-CoV-2

There are several ongoing efforts by scientists, governments, international organisations, and others to determine the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Most scientists say that as with other pandemics in human history, the virus is likely of zoonotic origin in a natural setting, and ultimately originated from a bat-borne virus. Several other explanations, including many conspiracy theories, have been proposed about the origins of the virus.

COVID-19 lab leak theory Proposed theory on the origins of COVID-19

The COVID-19 lab leak theory proposes that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, resulting in the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea developed from the circumstantial evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is close in proximity to the pandemic's early outbreak and from suspicions about the secretiveness of the Chinese government's response to the pandemic. Scientists from the WIV were known to have collected SARS-related coronaviruses; the allegation that the institute performed undisclosed risky work on such viruses is central to some versions of the idea. Some versions of the theory, particularly those alleging human intervention in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, are based on misinformation or misrepresentations of scientific evidence.


  1. Daly, Natasha (25 August 2020). "COVID-19's impact on the animal kingdom—so far". National Geographic . Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  2. Frutos, Roger; Serra-Cobo, Jordi; Chen, Tianmu; Devaux, Christian A. (5 August 2020). "COVID-19: Time to exonerate the pangolin from the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans". Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 84: 104493. doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104493. PMC   7405773 . PMID   32768565.
  3. 1 2 3 CDC (11 February 2020). "COVID-19 and Your Health". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  4. "Coronavirus pandemic linked to destruction of wildlife and world's ecosystem". Deutsche Welle . Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  5. Johnson, Christine K.; Hitchens, Peta L.; Pandit, Pranav S.; Rushmore, Julie; Evans, Tierra Smiley; Young, Cristin C. W.; Doyle, Megan M. (8 April 2020). "Global shifts in mammalian population trends reveal key predictors of virus spillover risk". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 287 (1924): 20192736. doi:10.1098/rspb.2019.2736. PMC   7209068 . PMID   32259475.
  6. Dean, Grace (5 November 2020). "Denmark says it will cull 17 million mink after discovering a mutated strain of COVID-19 that officials fear could 'restart' the entire global pandemic". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 5 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  7. Finnemann Scheel, Agnete (5 November 2020). "Ny corona-mutation er en kæp i hjulet på vaccinen: Det ved vi om 'cluster 5'" (in Danish). DR. Archived from the original on 5 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  8. "Pets linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness during lockdown, new research shows". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  9. "Pets and the pandemic: the impact our animals had on our mental health and wellbeing". The Conversation . 25 January 2021. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  10. "Pets are helping us cope during the pandemic—but that may be stressing them out". National Geographic . 2 February 2021. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  11. Zhou P, Yang XL, Wang XG, Hu B, Zhang L, Zhang W, et al. (February 2020). "A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin". Nature . 579 (7798): 270–273. Bibcode:2020Natur.579..270Z. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7. PMC   7095418 . PMID   32015507.
  12. Perlman S (February 2020). "Another Decade, Another Coronavirus". The New England Journal of Medicine . 382 (8): 760–762. doi:10.1056/NEJMe2001126. PMC   7121143 . PMID   31978944.
  13. Benvenuto D, Giovanetti M, Ciccozzi A, Spoto S, Angeletti S, Ciccozzi M (April 2020). "The 2019-new coronavirus epidemic: Evidence for virus evolution". Journal of Medical Virology . 92 (4): 455–459. doi:10.1002/jmv.25688. PMC   7166400 . PMID   31994738.
  14. Andersen KG, Rambaut A, Lipkin WI, Holmes EC, Garry RF (17 March 2020). "Correspondence: The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2". Nature Medicine . 26 (4): 450–452. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9. PMC   7095063 . PMID   32284615.
  15. 1 2 Kuiper, Michael J.; Wilson, Laurence OW; Mangalaganesh, Shruthi; Reti, Daniel; Vasan, Seshadri S. (5 August 2021). "'But Mouse, you are not alone: On some severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 variants infecting mice'". bioRxiv. doi:10.1101/2021.08.04.455042. S2CID   236953129.
  16. Fenster, Jordan (9 October 2020). "Analysis: 6 animal species dying because of COVID" . Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  17. Fujimori, Leila (16 October 2021). "Honolulu Zoo's only male lion dies, tests positive for COVID". Honolulu Star-Advertiser . Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  18. "Eight lions in Indian zoo test positive for COVID-19". CNA. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  19. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (27 August 2021). "Confirmation of COVID-19 in Deer in Ohio" (Press release). United States Department of Agriculture . Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  20. 1 2 Staff Writer (24 July 2021). "Unvaccinated snow leopard at San Diego Zoo catches Covid-19". NBC News . Associated Press . Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  21. "SARS-CoV-2 mink-associated variant strain – Denmark". World Health Organization. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  22. Simmons, Dan. "Mink farmers are skipping to the front of the vaccine line — for an important reason". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  23. "What Happens If COVID-19 Infects Wild Animals?". Tufts Now. 25 January 2021. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  24. Rutz, Christian; Loretto, Matthias-Claudio; Bates, Amanda E.; Davidson, Sarah C.; Duarte, Carlos M.; Jetz, Walter; Johnson, Mark; Kato, Akiko; Kays, Roland; Mueller, Thomas; Primack, Richard B. (September 2020). "COVID-19 lockdown allows researchers to quantify the effects of human activity on wildlife". Nature Ecology & Evolution. 4 (9): 1156–1159. doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-1237-z . ISSN   2397-334X. PMID   32572222. S2CID   219976980.
  25. Goldman, Jason G. "How the Coronavirus Has Changed Animals' Landscape of Fear". Scientific American. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  26. Bittel, Jason. "Pandemic shutdowns saved thousands of animals from becoming roadkill, report suggests". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 27 February 2021.