There are a number of questions we as a veterinary field have been answering routinely since this all began.
What about our pets? Do they carry the disease? Can they transmit it to us? Should we be worried? What about those tigers that tested positive? With all that is occurring right now, these are very valid concerns and questions, and definitely worth asking!
Here is a FAQ gathered together as we know things right now (April 7th, 2020). Please remember there are a number of pets being surrendered to the shelter because of misinformation. Before you panic, please know the facts! Remember, we need our pets’ companionship now more than ever. They don’t mind social isolation with us. 🙂
Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?
Dogs and cats can carry a virus known as corona, but this is different than the COVID-19 that we are currently seeing. Veterinarians used to previously vaccinate for this virus in dogs, so you may have heard of it. This virus in dogs generally causes intestinal disease and signs that are not consistent with what we are seeing now with humans. Cats can get 2 types of the corona virus, one being very serious and known as FIP. Neither of these presentations of corona can be transferred to humans.
The current concern is the COVID-19 strain. To date, 4 domestic animals have tested positive for this virus: 2 dogs in Hong Kong and 2 cats (Hong Kong and Belgium). The type of test that was conducted was known as a PCR test, and can be positive for contamination (the DNA of the virus from other sources like being on their body could have been picked up) or an actual infection. None of the pets showed any of the current signs and symptoms we are seeing with humans and COVID.
There are currently experiments being conducted with dogs, cats and ferrets. Some cats have been shown to develop their own antibodies to this. However, this is in experimental conditions with HIGH amount of exposure. There is a suggestion that they can transfer this to other cats if they are in this condition. There is no suggestion that they can transfer this back to humans!
Large scale testing done by one of our veterinary labs do not show positives, and our insurance companies are not reporting any increase in respiratory concerns or intestinal concerns at this time.
Ultimately, what this means to us is the following:
- Dogs and cats have not been shown to transmit the virus to humans
- Dogs and cats have not been shown to become excessively ill with exposure of the virus
- Dogs and cats have not been tested in large amounts to suggest they will be carriers to the virus or a host that can transmit it to humans
- Dogs and cats CAN be fomites for the virus. This means that if an individual with the virus is sick and in contact with the pet, they can carry particles of the virus on their skin and fur. This is no different from coming in contact with a door knob or a surface someone sneezed on.
- The tigers at the zoo were exposed to their keeper. Their testing positive at this time does suggest exposure. However, that does not mean they are able to give it to another human. Testing and observation are being conducted whether they can transfer to another tiger.
Should I be around my pets?
- If you are sick or are concerned you are sick, isolate yourself from your pets as well as other humans.
- If you are feeling well and have had no exposure, please love your pets as much as possible!
- If you are sick and are isolating your pets, please do not allow your pets to go out in public with anyone else. The only exception to this is going to your veterinary hospital if a concern arises. That being said, if you are sick, IMMEDIATELY let your veterinary staff know so they can take appropriate measures.
What protective measures should I put in place to keep my pet and myself safe?
- Treat other pets you meet like people. While they may not carry the virus in the respiratory system, they can act like a fomite. Keep your 6 foot distance from pets that you do not know like you would people.
- Wipe down your pets anytime they come in contact with other individuals with a hypoallergenic baby wipe.
- If you know anyone that is sick, isolate the pets away from them.
- Continue to practice social isolation as much as possible to keep your pets AND yourself safe! 🙂