COVID-19 and our pets

Apr 20, 2021 3:04:24 AM

Pets are the most precious creatures. They make our lives lively and enchanting with their entertaining and affectionate behaviours. They are a source of unconditional love and adoration. Our pets are part of our family and they need the same care as we offer our other family members.

Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, pet parents are asking more questions and being extra mindful of their own and their pets’ health. Some owners are also anxious and confused in respect of the role of animals in general, and pets, in the transmission of coronavirus.

What are coronaviruses?

A key thing to be aware of is that coronaviruses form a large family of RNA viruses which can infect humans’ and animals’ respiratory systems in different ways. Some will show no signs of the infection (asymptomatic), whilst others will show very mild symptoms, and some may suffer life-threatening symptoms and complications.

Can pets transmit COVID-19 to humans?

There are many infectious diseases which spread animals to humans. These are called “zoonotic diseases”. On the other hand, there are some infections which animals get from human beings, and these are called “anthroponotic infections”.

Whilst the exact source of current SARS-CoV-2 (or COVID-19) is not yet known, one of the leading and most published theories is that this virus first infected humans from a zoonotic/animal origin. (Bats seem to be getting most of the blame in these theories).

Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it is always sensible to practise healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene.

Can pets contract COVID-19 from humans?

At this time, this is not clear or definitive. From this, we can take some comfort that, at least, this is not a major path of transmission. Lots of research is underway and a small number of studies in Hong Kong and China have indicated that pets can get a coronavirus infection by staying in close proximity with the infected humans.

  • Research conducted in Hong Kong on cats and dogs living with a coronavirus-infected person. It was concluded that only two dogs had been infected with coronavirus, but the severity of infection was very low in both instances.
  • According to a recent Chinese study, cats can be susceptible to COVID-19 infection and there are a few studies that show that cats can contract the virus and spread it to other felines. To date, no study has revealed or suggested that cats can transmit this virus to human beings.

Christine Klippen, an emergency veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., stresses that the few animals that have shown signs of a SARS-CoV-2 infection have had “very mild” symptoms and did not require 

It should be noted that other feline and canine coronaviruses are common in cats and dogs and cause different diseases in them, but there is no similarity between novel coronavirus and those coronaviruses.

Common-sense precautions to keep your pet safe

1) Care for your pets as you do for yourself and your family members during this pandemic.

2) Wash hands regularly. Sanitise your pets’ living spaces as often as possible.

3) Limit/distance the social contact of your pets with other pets and people.

Conclusion

Our pets mean the world to us and they badly need our support and love during the pandemic. Maintaining excellent hygiene and appropriate distancing from those outside of your household will help, and, of course, stay up to date with the latest guidelines from PHE and the WHO.

Then and very importantly, stay clear of rumours and stay connected with your veterinarian. Your vet will provide the best suggestions and guidelines for the well-being and good health of your lovely pets!

Author: Dr John Abbass – DVM, M.Phil (Veterinary Microbiology)

References:

Goumenou, M., Spandidos, D.A. and Tsatsakis, A., 2020. Possibility of transmission through dogs being a contributing factor to the extreme Covid‑19 outbreak in North Italy. Molecular medicine reports, 21(6), pp.2293-2295.

Campbell, Charlie. “The West Blames the Wuhan Coronavirus on China’s Love of Eating Wild Animals. The Truth Is More Complex.” Time Magazine, 24 Jan. 2020.

Day, M. J., et al. “WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, vol. 57, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 4–8.

Parry, N.M., 2020. COVID-19 and pets: When pandemic meets panic. Forensic Science International: Reports, 2, p.100090.

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