As a human virus, Covid-19 has some repercussions on our companion animals.
Amidst the worry and fear of the Covid-19 pandemic, many pet owners have been left wondering whether their pets could be affected.
Within the Coronavirus family, there are certain viruses that can affect animals like cats and dogs. These viruses, however, are different from Covid-19 and cannot be transmitted to humans.
There are rare instances of dogs and cats testing positive for SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes Covid-19). All of the infected animals had caretakers who were ill with Covid-19.
- The death of a dog in Hong Kong that had been exposed to SARS-CoV2 from his owner made world news headlines in March 2020.Further investigation showed that the dog was 15 years old, had a heart condition, and had no signs of COVID infection. It is believed to have died from his underlying illness, unrelated to the Coronavirus.
- A study in China, published in April 2020, demonstrated that, of all domesticated animals tested by being injected with the virus, cats and ferrets were the only species that were able to be infected with SARS-CoV2, and develop signs of illness. The study was too small to reach definitive conclusions about whether the virus may spread from a symptomatic cat to other cats.
- A small number of felines were known to have tested positive: a cat in Belgium and Nadia, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo.
- As of late April 2020, two pet cats in the U.S that had signs of mild respiratory illness tested positive for SARS-CoV2. The cats are expected to make a full recovery.
The above rare occurrences demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the Covid-19 virus in causing illness in our companion animals.
Compared with the trajectory of the illness in humans throughout the world, we have not seen a similar outbreak of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness in cats or dogs, even in our own community, a major epicenter of the pandemic.
Although there is no evidence that our pets can transmit Covid-19 to humans, the American Veterinary Medical Association still recommends that pet owners take precautions during the outbreak.
People and pets should follow federal and local social distancing guidelines. Restrict your pet’s contact with people and animals from other households.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread most efficiently through direct contact with another person infected with the virus, or via their respiratory droplets. It is much less contagious through aerosol (tiny droplets in the air) or contaminated surfaces (a door knob or possibly your pet’s fur.).
Since Covid-19 can survive on different surfaces for various lengths of time, pets that encounter infected people should not be allowed to have contact with persons outside your household.
If you are sick with Covid-19, maintain the minimum social distance from your pet inside your home, and have another member of your household take care of your pet.
If you live alone, continue to care for your pets, but avoid close contact when possible, and wash your hands before and after touching them.
Worries about novel Coronavirus aside, there are many zoonotic diseases that can be passed between humans and animals. It is always smart to practice proper hygiene when you come into contact with any animals. Be sure to wash your hands before and after playing or handling their waste to keep your pets and your human family members healthy.
Patricia Doherty is a veterinarian at Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital.