The outbreak of COVID-19 is causing fear and uncertainty for everyone. It’s also a threat to the well-being of pets, as some owners fear that animals may spread the virus. So, here we will clarify some of the most asked questions:
Can COVID-19 affect pets?
Currently, there is limited evidence that pets (dogs and cats) can be infected with SARS-Cov-2, and there is no evidence that dogs and cats can be a source of transmission to other animals or humans. However, this is a rapidly evolving situation and the information will be updated as it becomes available.
Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID19?
Yes, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just as you would with other people.
Although there are no reports of pets or other animals sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that sick people limit contact with animals, until more information is known about the virus.
If possible, ask a member of your family to take care of your animals while you are sick. If this is not possible and you have to take care of the animals while you are sick, then in this case you must avoid contact, that is, do not pet, kiss or share food. It is important to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals, and in this case, you should wear a face mask.
If my pet has been in contact with someone who is sick from COVID-19, can it spread the disease to other people?
While we do not yet know for sure, there is limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread SARS-Cov-2. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus.
Additionally, there is currently no evidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. But again, this is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
What should I do if my pet develops an unexplained illness and was around a person with documented COVID-19 infection?
If your pet develops a disease without a definite cause after being exposed to a person with COVID-19, you should contact the health authorities. Do not take the animal to a clinic or hospital without first contacting a public health agent.
What is the World Small Animal Veterinary Association's response to the report that a dog has been "infected" with COVID-19 in Hong Kong?
On February 28, news from Hong Kong indicated that an infected patient's dog had a 'weak positive' result for COVID-19.
On March 5, the Hong Kong Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (AFCD) reported that the dog's nasal, oral, rectal and fecal samples were tested at 3 different times. On February 26 and 28, nasal and oral samples showed positive results, while on March 2, only nasal samples showed positive results. The rectal and fecal samples showed negative results on the three occasions.
Testing at both the government veterinary laboratory (AFCD) and the WHO accredited diagnostic human CoV laboratory at Hong Kong University (HKU) detected a low viral load in the nasal and oral swabs. Both laboratories used the real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method and the results indicate that there was a small quantity of COVID-19 viral RNA in the samples.
It does not, however, indicate whether the samples contain intact virus particles which are infectious, or just fragments of the RNA, which are not contagious.
The “weak positive” result of the nasal sample taken 5 days after removing the dog from the possible source of contamination (the house) suggests that the dog has a low level of infection, which may indicate that it t is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.
However, there is still no evidence that pets, dogs and cats, can be a source of infection for other animals or humans.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends that pet owners in areas where there are known human cases of COVID-19 continue to follow the information presented here, that is, wash your hands before interacting with animals and, if you are sick, wear masks.
So, what should I do to protect my pets?
In addition to the preventive measures described above, it is important that you include your pets in your family plan. In the event that you become ill or quarantined, you must guarantee food for your pet during that possible period. You should let your neighbors or friends know about all the food, walks or medication routines, in case you can't be at home. Expect the best, prepare for the worst.
Summing up: so far, there is no evidence that animals can contract this virus, however it is recommended that you take the same care with your pets as you do with other people. Feed your best friend well and boost his immune system. Stay at home and avoid social contacts, but don't forget to keep your mind and body active. Watch a movie, read a book, teach your pet new tricks, protect yourself and your people. Together, we will help to contain the virus! Stay safe!
Filipa Santiago, DVM