Researching and preparing these updates is a constant challenge for so many reasons. First, in times of uncertainty, it's only natural that pet owners want a 100% ironclad guarantee that their pets won't get or share this new coronavirus. Second, we are still finding out new things about SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. With these two things in mind, here's the latest news when it comes to our pets and COVID-19.
You will remember that we first saw a Pomeranian in Hong Kong who had viral particles consistently on nasal swabs. Then, a 2 year old German Shepherd, also tested positive for the virus. This pup also lived in Hong Kong. Now, we see that our feline friends are joining the fun. In Belgium...a cat living with a COVID-19 infected owner displayed symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory difficulties) and virus was found in the cat's feces. At last report, the cat was recovering from the virus. And, just in the last few days, a cat living in Hong Kong with a COVID-19 infected owner tested positive for the virus in it's mouth, nose, and rectum.
So, with these cases, few as they are, is there a need to be concerned about our pets getting OR transmitting SARS-CoV-2?
Veterinary experts and scientists from around the world continue to state that our pets are NOT a risk factor for transmitting COVID-19 to people. Here in the United States, Idexx, a veterinary diagnostics company, has tested thousands of specimens as they validated their new SARS-CoV-2 test for pets and did not find any evidence of COVID-19 in our pets. Research that is still on-going across the world shows that dogs are able to be infected, but don't show clinical symptoms, and don't appear to transmit the virus efficiently.
Cats and ferrets have been shown to become infected and actually develop symptoms similar to COVID-19. This is not surprising...the new coronavirus has a specific receptor on cells to gain entry and our kitty friends, along with ferrets, have a receptor that is remarkably similar to the receptor in human cells. How well they can transmit viral particles remains to be determined and as more surveillance testing in our pets is done, we should have more answers in the future. But, overall, despite a miniscule number of pets showing COVID-19 and the similarities between cats and people, there is still no reason to become alarmed. As we have mentioned in the previous blogs, common sense hygiene rules need to be in play.
If you are sick, for whatever reason, avoid snuggling with your pet or sharing food items/utensils. We know you want to cuddle with your best friend, but this is NOT the time to take unnecessary risks. Wear a mask if you need to care for your pet (feeding, etc)
If you are sick and need someone to help care for your pet, someone in that household is the best option to help. Presumably, they have been exposed to and have recovered/are immune to whatever illness you have and can safely care for your furry friend.
DON'T SEND YOUR PET TO STAY ELSEWHERE if it can be avoided. While there is no strong evidence of that pets can pass fomites (viral particles) via their fur, there's no need to expose additional people if there are better options. Current theories state that the virus only survives in pet hair for minutes to hours at most and an appropriate bath would like reduce risk of contamination.
As stated above, things change and they often change rapidly. What we don't know today could be different tonight, tomorrow, or next week. The key to staying sane is to take time to tune out (get off of social media) and find reputable, trusted sources of information. Hopefully, this is one of them. Oh . . . and call your veterinarian!