The news this week that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing respiratory symptoms might have pet owners wondering if their pets could get sick too, or if their dog or cat could pass the virus along to them.


The tiger case follows the case of a dog in Hong Kong testing positive after its owner was sick. That dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, later died, but without an autopsy, it’s unclear whether it was the virus or something else that caused the death. A cat in Belgium also tested positive based on vomit and feces testing, but those samples were collected by the cat’s owner, who also had the disease.


Dr. Jed Rogers, the chief executive officer of Firehouse Animal Health Centers, says he thinks people are worked up because of the Netflix documentary "Tiger King."


The takeaway, Rogers says, is not that the tiger (or our pets) could make us sick, but that we could pass the coronavirus on to animals.


"What about great apes?" Rogers says. "They could have a tougher time with this."


Rogers believes we might see more stories coming out of human to animal transmission, but not the other way around.


There are illnesses like rabies and parasites that pets can pass to humans, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them.


Rogers does not believe that your pet is likely to be a carrier of the virus and pass it from one human to another human. "They are not good at it," he says. "They are not like smooth, metallic surfaces ... they are not going to be shedding it and transferring it from one person to another."


What if a dog licks a sick person and then licks a well person? Could that spread the virus? "That’s pretty far out there," Roger says.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if you become sick, you have another person take care of your pets to make sure they are cared for as well as to keep them safe. It recommends you avoid petting, snuggling, sharing food or being licked by a pet, and if you must take care of your pet, you should wash your hands before and after you interact with them.


The American Veterinary Medical Association also shares these recommendations: "Until more is known about this virus, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just as you would restrict contact with other people."


It does recommend that if you’re not sick with the coronavirus, you continue to interact with pets as usual, but practice handwashing before and after handling their food, waste, toys and bedding.


One thing that has been happening behind the scenes, Rogers says, is the laboratories that test animals for other health conditions have been testing for the virus as well and not finding it. Pet insurance companies also have been looking to see if there have been more respiratory cases, and also are not seeing it.


Veterinary services are considered essential and Firehouse remains open, but the virus has changed the way they do business, Roger says, in order to protect the humans. In addition to their normal sanitizing and handwashing procedures, Firehouse staff are doing extra handwashing and physically distancing people. Sometimes that means taking the pet inside while the owner waits outside and communicates through a window or by telephone. They also have limited the number of people coming into their centers.


If you don’t have any health concerns for your pet, you can put off seeing the veterinarian right now, but if there concerns, Rogers says they are following the CDCs guidelines.


He says he does know of some veterinary offices that have closed if they didn’t feel like they could operate safely during this time.