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FAQ: Coronavirus & Our Pets

FAQ: Coronavirus & Our Pets

Many of us have questions regarding how COVID-19 affects our beloved furry family members. Our team of North Asheville veterinary professionals hope to address some of your questions below with the current information available to us. 

Pets are important members of our family, and we want to keep them healthy and safe. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 and pet health as this situation evolves.

Can COVID-19 infect dogs and cats?

While it has been reported that two dogs tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong, neither of these dogs displayed any symptoms of being sick. The tests showed that they had been exposed to the virus following close contact with their owners who were sick with COVID-19. One of these dogs, a 17 year old Pomeranian, died after returning home following being held for a two week quarantine and testing. This elderly dog never showed any signs of illness potentially related to COVID-19 and had other underlying medical conditions as well, so it’s considered highly unlikely that the virus had anything to do with the dog’s death (although the stress from being quarantined for two weeks could have certainly been a contributing factor).

One cat in Belgium tested positive for the COVID-19 after contracting the virus from its owner who tested positive herself after a recent visit to Italy. Clinical signs including vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty breathing developed a week after the owner became ill and tests of the cat’s feces and vomit revealed traces of the virus. This is the first human to cat transmission, but Steven Van Gucht, a virologist for the COVID epidemic in Belgium told Live Science that there are no reports of pets passing the virus onto humans and cats do not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus.

The first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding COVID-19 virus. This investigation is ongoing.

April 22, 2020 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) today announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in two pet cats. These are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. The two cats are from separate area of New York. Both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery.

The world is still learning about the COVID-19 virus, but it is known to be zoonotic and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.

CDC is working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.

To date, CDC does not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.

Can infected dogs and cats transmit the disease to people?

The current spread of COVID-19 is as a result of human to human transmission. As of now, no evidence exists that dogs and cats, even if infected, can spread the disease to humans.

Can pets serve as fomites in the spread of COVID-19?

(A fomite is an object such as a door handle or a countertop that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and facilitate their transmission)

COVID-19 is primarily spread by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. There is a possibility that the virus could be transmitted through a secondary route, such as touching a contaminated object or surface (i.e., a fomite) and then touching your face. Because your pet’s fur is fibrous and porous, the pathogen is more likely to be trapped and not transmitted.

It is very unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet.

What precautionary measures should be taken by owners when dogs or cats have close contact with humans sick or suspected with COVID-19?

According to the CDC and Public health officials who are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected.

Until we know more, CDC recommends the following:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

For more information on the many benefits of pet ownership, as well as staying safe and healthy around animals including pets, livestock, and wildlife, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.

Should I (can I) test a pet for COVID-19?

According to the CDC: “At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended.  State animal health and public health officials will take the lead in making determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.” If your dog or cat is demonstrating respiratory clinical signs, please contact us so we can evaluate your pet and test for more common respiratory diseases.

I thought there were vaccines for dogs and cats for coronavirus? Does this have anything to do with COVID-19?

There are many different strains of coronavirus affecting a variety of species and a number of different bodily systems. The primary coronavirus that affects dogs causes an intestinal disease. An inactivated vaccine is available for the control of canine coronavirus diarrhea, but is not currently recommended as its effectiveness is debatable. The primary coronavirus that affects cats is a multi-systemic disease that causes organ failure and ultimately death. The effectiveness of this vaccine has been questionable and remains controversial.

These species specific strains of coronavirus are not related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) respiratory outbreak in humans.

(Source; AVMA, CDC, WHO)

For more information about COVID-19 in people and pets, please visit the CDC website. If you have health concerns with your pet, please contact us at 828-253-3393

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