PETS AND COVID-19: ARE THEY SAFE?
COVID-19 is frightening for everyone because it’s unlike anything we’ve seen in our lives. As we practice social distancing, work from home, and try to eliminate any possible ways to become contaminated by the virus, the question of pets arises. What do we do? Will they get it? How can I protect myself or my dog/cat/etc. from getting it?
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Center for Disease Control and other domestic and international health organizations, the good news is that there is NO evidence at this point that pets become ill with COVID-19, or that they can spread it to humans or other animals. This is very important to note as many people are trying to drop their animals off at animal shelters in the mistaken belief that they can get sick from their dog or cat.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. “Corona” means crown in Spanish. Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: under the microscope, the viruses look like they’re covered with pointed structures that surround them like a crown. Coronaviruses are common in animals, including humans, but it’s rare that an animal coronavirus infects a human. Some coronaviruses can cause colds or mild respiratory illness. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are two of the more serious ones the world has experienced prior to COVID-19.
Coronavirus in Dogs and Cats
Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) in dogs usually presents as an intestinal disorder and is more common in puppies, and in dense populations of dogs. They are usually short lived but cause considerable abdominal discomfort for a few days for your dog. The virus is shed in the feces of the dog.
Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) is a common viral infection, usually with no symptoms, but can sometimes cause mild diarrhea. A change in the virus, which is not well understood at this time, can give rise to mutations that lead to the development of feline infectious peritionitis (FIP). Again, transmission of Feline Coronavirus is through feces.
These coronaviruses are not transmissible to humans.
From the American Veterinary Medical Association:
Q: Can SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) infect pets?
A: Currently there is no evidence that pets can become sick from COVID-19. Infectious disease experts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate there is no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people. So, please, don’t take your pets to the shelter because of this concern.
Q: Can pets transmit the COVID-19 virus the way other contaminated objects or surfaces might?
A: Because animal hair is porous and also fibrous, it’s very unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet. However, because animals can spread OTHER diseases to humans, it is always recommended to wash your hands before and after playing with your pet. Also, regularly grooming, washing bedding and keeping your pet’s food and water bowls clean is recommended.
Q: If I am ill with COVID-19, are there special precautions I should take for caring for my pet?
A: Out of an abundance of caution, the AVMA recommends you take the same common-sense approach when interacting with your pets or other animals in your home as you would with humans. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
Q: What should I do to prepare for my pet’s care in the event I contract COVID-19?
A: Identify another person in your household who is willing and able to care for your pet. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks; worth of pet food, litter, and any needed medications.
Positive COVID-19 Tests on Dogs
Although a 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong died after contracting a “low-level” COVID-19 infection, it is very important to understand that the owner had tested positive for COVID-19 and then was hospitalized. Three days later, her dog had a “weak positive” test, but there was no serological test, meaning checking for antibodies in the blood which would be a definite confirmation. In addition, the dog was also quarantined for two weeks until it tested negative. Three days after returning home, the dog unfortunately died. A couple things to note are: Pomeranians are susceptible to “collapsing trachea” which is a chronic, progressive, irreversible disease of the trachea and lower airways. The trachea (or windpipe) is made of cartilage that is C-shaped. In some dogs, the cartilage weakens and flattens out and can collapse, causing acute respiratory symptoms, a honking cough, harsh panting, and a bluish tinge to the tongue. It is possible that the dog already had a weakened trachea prior to the positive test and the stress of the quarantine and returning home contributed to his death.
A second dog, also from Hong Kong, tested positive after oral and nasal swabs were taken (again, no blood tests were done). This was a 2-year-old German Shepherd that was not showing any symptoms. Another dog in the household was also tested but its test was negative. Both dogs are in quarantine. Authorities believe this to be a human-to-dog transmission.
It has been proven in numerous medical journals and scientific studies that pets reduce stress. Walking your dog is good exercise for both you and your dog. Petting a cat has also been proven to lower your blood pressure. The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful and having a “shelter-in-place” order exacerbates that. At this time, pets are essential to us to help make an extremely stressful situation less so. We at Protect The Harvest encourage our readers to use the guidelines within the FAQ’s from the AVMA to minimize transmission, and to hold on to your pets because they need you as much as you need them.