Q. With so much bogus information on social media, I don’t know what to believe. I just heard animals can get CoVid-19. Do I have to worry about my dog?
A. Information has been developing at a fast pace. yes, there is a lot of false information out there.
I would like to update you with what we know at this time. The caveat is this information may change at any time. Here is what we do know. Four pets have been tested positive, two dogs in Hong Kong and two cats in Belgium.
On February 27th, Hong Kong officials reported weak positive oral and nasal swabs for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the coronavirus) from a 17 year old Pomeranian whose owner had been diagnosed with CoVid-19. Testing was continued for several days showing a weak positive in all the samples taken. Gene sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 from the Pomeranian and close human contacts were very similar suggesting the dog and his people shared the same virus strain. Later, the dog did develop antibodies to the virus. On March 12th and 13th tests were negative for the virus. Then the little dog was released to
his owner. experts from the WHO (World Health Organization) accredited lab believe the consistency and the persistence of the lab results suggest the virus spread from the infected people to the Pomeranian.
The Pomeranian was one of two dogs under quarantine. The second dog never tested positive. neither dog was sick with an upper respiratory infection. The Pomeranian, who was 17 years old, passed away three days after being released from quarantine from one of his ongoing health issues and not CoVid-19.
On March 18th, another dog in Hong Kong, a two year old German Shepherd, tested positive for SARS- CoV-2 just like his owner. He tested positive on the 19th and the 20th of March, and then negative for the next 10 consecutive days. Like the Pomeranian, this dog had the virus isolated from collected samples. By April 3rd, he had developed antibodies same as the other dog. A mixed breed dog from the same household tested negative, and neither dog developed symptoms while in quarantine.
On March 30th in Hong Kong, a cat that lived in a home with the guardian sick with CoVid-19, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. This cat is in quarantine and has so signs of Covid- 19.
As of March 31st, Hong Kong has held 27 dogs and 15 cats in quarantine from households that have people sick with CoVid-19. The two dogs and one cat mentioned above are the only positive animals in quarantine. Four animals have been released, including the Pomeranian.
In Belgium, a cat was reported to be positive for the SARS-CoV-2 found in its feces and vomit. This cat was showing signs of digestive and respiratory symptoms. This cat also was owned by a person sick with CoVid-19. no genetic testing was done on the cat and owner to confirm if the same strain of virus was found in both. Because of the lack of detail in the history and sample collection methods, it is difficult to conclude if this cat’s illness is definitely from the virus or another cause. This cat did fully recover.
In the United States two commercial labs have been testing thousands of specimens from dogs and cats for SARS-CoV-2 and have no positive results. These specimens have come from endemic areas in the US, Canada, South Korea, and Europe. These results are encouraging, but the tests submitted were initially for other respiratory diseases, which doesn’t give us any history on the guardian’s status with CoVid-19.
The big news currently is the positive findings of SARS-CoV-2 in samples from a tiger in the Bronx Zoo. On April 3rd, tests were run on a four year old female Malayan tiger with respiratory signs. These samples were performed at two veterinary university labs in the US and confirmed at the USDA national Veterinary Service Laboratory on April 4th.
This tiger was one of 2 Malayan tigers, 3 African lions, and 2 Amur tigers who all developed mild respiratory symptoms. These big cats were all healthy and have lived at the Bronx Zoo for a long time. no new animal arrivals at the zoo have occurred for several years. The rest of the large cats in the zoo appear to be healthy. The infected cats may have been exposed to the virus from their caretaker, who is positive but didn’t have any symptoms at the time these cats started getting sick. The zoo has been closed since mid-March and the first cat showed symptoms on March 27th. no other animals in the zoo have shown symptoms of illness.
So what does this mean for our pets at home? The CDC has not had any reports of pets getting sick from this virus in the United States. There is no information suggesting people can get CoVid-19 from their pets. The 3 pets that tested positive were in very close contact with their guardians who were sick with CoVid-19 at the time.
For now until we know more, the CDC recommends anyone sick with CoVid-19, restrict their contact with pets and animals like you would with people. If possible, have someone else in the family take care of the pets including feeding, walking, and other activities. If you have a service animal, cover your face, don’t pet, hug, kiss, or share food with your pet. Wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet. Do not share any dishes, cups, glasses, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets at home.
To keep your pets safe, plan ahead. Have an emergency kit, stock up on food, supplements, and medicines for times of self-isolation or quarantine. At this time, there is no reason to remove a pet from a home that has CoVid-19 infection. The only reason to remove a pet is if the guardian is too sick to take care of the pet. It is wise to have someone as a back up to help. Remember your veterinarian is there to help.
More information on managing pets in homes with people who are sick with CoVid-19 is available from the CDC.