Vet Views: Does COVID-19 affect pets?

  • 2 min to read
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With more cases of COVID-19 across the United States there has been a growing concern about the possibility of the novel virus affecting our pet population.

COVID-19 is a novel virus called “SARS-CoV-2” and causes symptoms known as “coronavirus disease 2019,” otherwise abbreviated as COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a part of a larger family of corona viruses. Coronaviruses affect multiple species including humans, dogs, cats, cattle and bats. COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus that originated in bats. The origin of the virus’ jump to people occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Later cases indicated that the virus is now spreading through human to human contact.

In February, a dog in Hong Kong, China, had nasal and oral swab testing that showed a weak positive for COVID-19. A few weeks later the dog had a negative serologic test result. This does not prove he was not infected with the virus but it does indicate that there was genetic material from the virus. At this point in time, there are follow up serologic test results pending. The World Organization for Animal Health reports there is little evidence dogs can become sick from the virus or act in disease spread.

As of March 13, IDEXX Laboratories announced it has evaluated thousands of tests from dogs and cats with no positive results from polymerase chain reaction tests to date. PCR tests are used to determine if genetic material is present in a specimen.

Newly updated infectious disease experts, CVC and animal health organizations report there is no evidence at this point in time that pets become ill from COVID-19, that pets spread it to other pets, or that pets spread it to people.

Currently, the CDC reports the primary route of transmission is contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids: saliva, mucus or cough/sneeze droplets. The secondary route is via touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes).

There are two key types of fomite surfaces — nonporous and smooth surfaces (countertops, doorknobs, tables, handles, etc.) or porous surfaces (pet fur, clothing, paper money, or anything fibrous in nature). It is much more likely to transmit the virus via a nonporous surface than a porous surface.

The CDC recommends if you and your family members are healthy to continue interacting with your pet as normal.

Continue to practice good hygiene (i.e., washing hands, cleaning your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding, toys) for yourself, as well as, for your pets (i.e., making sure they are well groomed and clean).

However, if you or your family member is sick due to COVID-19 it is recommended to limit contact with animals and practice higher biosecurity until more information about the virus is known.

During the next few weeks, keep in close contact with your local veterinary clinics for daily updated information about clinic protocols regarding appointments, surgical procedures, emergencies and biosecurity. If you are experiencing illness, do not come into the veterinary clinic.

While there are corona virus vaccines for dogs and cattle, there is currently no vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 for people.

The vaccines for dogs and cattle should never be used in a different species than they are intended and they do not cross protect for this strain.

Do not hesitate to contact your local veterinarian with questions and concerns.

Danielle Carey, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at the Animal Clinic of Walla Walla. Contact her at 509-525-6111.

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