With more and more areas across the country issuing "stay at home" orders, a majority of people are turning to social media and traditional broadcast media to stay informed about the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as find ways to alleviate anxiety or boredom. It's amazing that we can "hunker down" like this and still have options for entertainment and information (technology is great, right?), but TOO MUCH web-surfing can lead you to places you might not be ready to see or believe.
Earlier this week it was announced that a Malayan Tiger in the Bronx Zoo had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. In all, 7 big cats at the Zoo were showing symptoms, but the good news is that all are on their way to recovery. As the story relates, it is likely that the cats caught the virus from one of their keepers.
Given this knowledge, questions immediately starting popping up in social media feeds and so I will do my best to answer them here.
If a tiger can catch this virus, what about my house cats? As we have previously reported, there have been a few cases of cats who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 around the world. However, in light of the 1.7 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide (as of 4/11/20), we can still count the number of affected pets on less than 2 hands! We do know that this virus likes a specific receptor on certain cells in our lungs and our feline friends (along with ferrets) do share a very similar receptor, but when you compare numbers, it's pretty obvious that we are sharing this virus with our cats and not the other way around. While research is still on-going, it's important to NOT jump to conclusions and trust verifiable information, not something someone has shared in your Facebook Feed.
How about those dogs? Any updates? We reported on both the Pomeranian and a German Shepherd (both from Hong Kong) last month. Sadly, the 17 year old Pom passed away after returning to his owner (unlikely that this was related to COVID-19), but the German Shepherd, along with his mixed breed house mate, have been negative ever since. Other research continues to show that while dogs can get infected, they don't seem to develop signs of the disease nor do they seem capable of transmitting the virus.
My pets are due for regular vaccines . . . is it OK to update them now? This is a little tricky, to be honest. While you do want to keep pets up to date on their preventive care, it's not a good time to just pop the pet into the car and take a drive. Most veterinary offices have limited their services to more urgent matters or illness/injury in order to try and minimize person to person interactions. So, unless your pet is overdue for a rabies vaccine, it's probably ok to wait until things settle down and we understand more about the risks of returning to a more normal way of doing business.
Having said that, YOU SHOULD continue to keep your vaccine appointments for young puppies and kittens. Missing out on these vaccines could lead to the possibility that your new family members may not be fully protected against diseases when life returns to more normal.
I am getting a little bit of cabin fever . . . can I take my dog for a walk? ABSOLUTELY!! Just remember that both you AND your dog need to practice social distancing. Again, we have NO EVIDENCE that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can live on our pet's fur and haircoat, but a wise person once said that no exposure means no disease. So, enjoy the nice days and the exercise.
What questions do you have about pets and COVID-19? Are you seeing weird stories online that don't make sense or that worry you? Drop me a question below and I am happy to try and find answers for you!