The following blog post is an update from Dr. Wendy Zawoysky’s post on 3/3/2020. We strive to keep our clients informed with the best information possible on COVID-19 and its potential affect on companion animals. Please continue to monitor our blog and social media posts for the most current information we are receiving.
The widely reported occurrence of a Tiger at the Bronx Zoo testing positive for COVID-19 and showing signs of a cough and reduced appetite raises appropriate questions about the risk to pets from COVID-19, and whether they could become an important vector in transmitting the disease. While there have been isolated cases of dogs and cats testing positive in homes with human COVID-19 cases, pets have remained symptom-free or only mildly ill, and the risk to people, thankfully, appears to be very low.
As reported in the Veterinary Information Network on April 3rd, “Since February, four household pets have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus sweeping the globe: two dogs in Hong Kong, a Pomeranian and a German shepherd; a cat in Belgium; and, most recently, a cat in Hong Kong. All the animals’ owners had COVID-19. Although they apparently picked up viral particles shed by their human companions, none of the Hong Kong pets showed signs of illness consistent with COVID-19. The Belgian cat, however, did become sick, showing signs about a week after its owner became ill.”
There is no current evidence that animals are currently, or are likely to become, an important vector in transmitting COVID-19. Person-Person transmission is still the primary concern, and, thankfully, social-distancing, stay-at-home orders, and diligent hygiene are working to slow the spread!
Still, it is prudent and highly recommended that people potentially infected with COVID-19 limit their interactions with their pets, and limit their pets contact with others. While transmission from pets to people is considered very unlikely, low-level transmission from sick people to pets does seem to occur. While dogs seem quite resistant to the infection, cats (& ferrets) are likely more susceptible.
The following brief summaries have been synthesized from a variety of sources. Here are three links with more complete explanations.
Interacting with your pets if you have COVID-19: The CDC and most other reputable resources recommend that people sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with their animals. If at all possible, others should feed and care for the animals until the sick person has recovered. If not possible, the sick person should wash hands thoroughly before and after every interaction with the pet.
Dog Susceptibility and Transmission: All indications so far are that dogs have low to very-low susceptibility to the virus and are unlikely to become ill from the virus. If exposed by a sick person, they may develop small amounts of virus on their mucous membranes but are very unlikely to be a significant source of transmission back to people.
Cat (and Ferret) Susceptibility and Transmission: Cats (and, even more so, Ferrets) appear more susceptible to actually contracting COVID-19. Most will not become ill, but signs ranging from labored breathing to lethargy to diarrhea could occur. There have been no documented cases of transmission between cats and people, and cats would likely only contract COVID-19 from their ill caretaker. Since there are many more-likely potential causes of illness, including respiratory signs, in cats, your cat should be examined if it has more than very mild signs if illness. If signs are respiratory in nature, a panel may be recommended to test for common respiratory infections, but COVID-19 testing is not currently commercially available for cats.