There are many questions about pets and coronavirus (COVID-19) going around on the internet, so here’s an update on what is known as of March 27, 2020.
Positive tests in China in dogs
Two dogs have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in Hong Kong. Members of their human family had COVID-19 in these cases, and no signs of respiratory infection or disease were observed in the dogs.
Unfortunately, one of the dogs did die a couple of days after quarantine. This dog was 17 years old with other medical issues and the owner declined a post-mortem. Coronavirus is not assumed to be a cause of death. The Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong stated in a March 26, 2020 press release that the dog had bloodwork done and that virus antibodies were found.
The same department tested samples from 17 dogs and 8 cats from households with people infected with COVID-19. Two dogs from these samples were positive. The AFCD has stated that at this point they feel dogs and cats are not infected easily and there is no evidence they play a role in virus spread.
Finally, one case of COVID-19 was reported in cats on March 27th. The cat developed diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and vomiting about a week after the owner began showing signs of COVID-19. There was however no further information is available.
Testing done in the United States
Idexx Laboratories, a leader in veterinary diagnostics, has come up with a test for cats and dogs. Through the development of their test, thousands of dogs and cat samples from 50 states were tested and no positive cases were found. However, samples used were ones that were submitted for other purposes right as the outbreak was beginning in the US. It was therefore unlikely that any of those animals would have been exposed to COVID.
There are no reports of cases of COVID-19 in livestock at this point.
Can you get COVID-19 from your pet?
Experts aren’t positive, but think there’s a VERY low risk of catching COVID-19 from your pet. Pets can test positive, but it is unlikely they can produce enough of the virus to be contagious. This is referred to as a dead-end host. However, we still don’t have enough research to know for sure.
What about pet fur?
There is no research to date on the length of time the virus can live on the fur of your pet, however it is reasonable to assume it can. Research showing the length of time SARS-CoV-2 can survive on various surfaces (cardboard, plastic, steel etc) can be found here.
World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) Statement
The OIE released a statement on March 23, 2020 stating that there is no evidence that pets play a role in transmitting the disease to humans.
What should you do if you have pets and get COVID-19?
Current recommendations state that pets should be treated the same way as other people if someone tests positive for coronavirus. If at all possible, have someone else in your household care for your pet. When that’s not possible, ensure that you’re washing hands well before and after doing anything with your pet, and wear a facemask.
If you do have COVID-19, it’s possible that your pets won’t be getting as much attention or exercise. Giving your pets more mental stimulation in your home can be very helpful to keep your pet busy. This can include food puzzles, searching games (for food or toys), and more active games. If interested in learning ideas for mental stimulation, follow my Instagram account for new ideas.
Where can I get more information?
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New information and research are continuously being posted, so information is changing rapidly. The Worms and Germs Blog posts updates frequently from two veterinarians who specialize in infectious diseases at the University of Guelph – a good evidence-based site to follow!