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Coronavirus in cats and dogs: how does COVID-19 affect pets?


A stray cat on the streets of an empty Istanbul.

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For the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

The Coronavirus pandemic has moved at such a rapid pace that many fundamental questions about where the virus comes from and how it spreads have not yet been answered definitively. Thanks to extensive research into previous coronavirus epidemics, scientists have shown that this virus family of bats can jump into other species such as civet cats and camels.

The corona virus SARS-CoV-2that causes COVID-19 is similar to previous corona viruses. It’s not particularly picky about infecting mammals. The virus can hijack cells by interacting with a cell surface protein known as ACE2 and found in many animals, including cats and dogs. Since the virus has been shown to jump across species – and thanks to a few individual reports about COVID-19 in pets – owners are understandably concerned about how COVID-19 could affect their pets.

Some media reports have shown the corona virus can infect our pets. Two pet cats in New York State tested positive and marked the first US pet cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more exotic species like tigers and lions also tested positive. However, cases remain rare. It seems that the transmission of the disease from humans to animals is low. A tiny number of cases have been reported since the outbreak began. It is important that there is still no evidence that pets can pass on to their owners. The World Health Organization says there is “no evidence that a dog, cat or pet can transmit COVID-19”.

We’ve put together everything you need to know about the coronavirus and your pets, as well as new research on how animals can spread or be affected by the coronavirus. If you have any further questions, you can contact or email us me a kick off on Twitter.

Where did the corona virus come from?

This corona virus, SARS-CoV-2, is a so-called zoonosis: it jumped from an animal species in humans.

Experts are studying the genetic makeup of the coronavirus and comparing it to a library of previously known coronaviruses. They suspect that the virus likely appeared in Chinese horseshoe bats before jumping to an intermediate species in close contact with humans. Some scientists believe that the mediator could be pangolin, a scaly, ant-eating mammal that has been proven to harbor coronaviruses in the past and is one of the most illegally traded animals in the world.

Pangolins were sold in a Chinese live animal market, often referred to as the “epicenter” of the outbreak. However, the renowned medical journal The Lancet published a detailed report on patients infected with the disease and found that the very first patient identified was not exposed to the animal market. Evidence that the pangolin was an intermediary remains scarce and some scientists believe that the search should be expanded.

Regardless of the history of SARS-CoV-2, we know that coronaviruses are capable of settling in all types – whether or not they cause disease is a question that remains to be answered and is an important one. Epidemiologists will want to know what species can harbor the virus so that they can better understand where it can stay in the environment and how likely it is to spring back to humans in the future.

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Can the corona virus infect cats and dogs?

Corona viruses are not particularly difficult to satisfy when it comes to potential hosts – they have been detected in many species of mammals and birds, including dogs and cats, and in farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs.

There are several reports that provide evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in pets. A The 17-year-old dog in Hong Kong was repeatedly “weakly positive” tested for coronavirus in March and later died. A cat in Belgium tested positive for the disease on March 24. Two pet cats in New York tested positive in April, presumably after becoming infected with the virus from people in their homes or in their neighborhood.

“These pets lived with infected human owners, and the timing of the positive result shows human-to-animal transfer,” said Jacqui Norris, veterinary scientist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “The virus culture of these pets was negative, which means that there was no active virus.”

A study published in Nature magazine on May 14 examined two cases of COVID-19 in dogs in Hong Kong – the aforementioned 17-year-old dog, a Pomeranian and a 2.5-year-old German Shepherd. The study showed that the virus was present in samples from the two animals, but there was no evidence of disease. A second dog, a cross, was housed at the German Shepherd, but samples of the animal showed no signs of the virus.

The authors conclude that human-to-animal transmission may occur, but dog-to-dog transmission appears unlikely.

Further evidence of how pets could develop COVID-19 comes from a study by researchers at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, published in Science on April 8. She examined the susceptibility of a number of species to COVID-19, including cats and dogs with a small number of animals.

The results showed that cats are infected with the coronavirus and may be able to transmit it to other cats via breath droplets. The team placed infected animals in cages next to three animals without the disease and found in one case that the virus had spread from cat to cat. However, the cats showed no external signs of illness.

Dogs seem to be more resistant. Five 3-month-old beagles were vaccinated through the nasal passage with SARS-CoV-2 and housed with two dogs that were not given the virus. After one week, the virus was not detected in any dog, but two had triggered an immune response. The two dogs that did not receive the virus did not receive it from their kennel companions.

One of the key findings is that these experiments were carried out in a laboratory and high doses of the coronavirus were used to infect the animals, which is unlikely to reflect the spread of the virus in real life. Even so, cats appear to be susceptible to infection, and the authors point out that further monitoring should be considered.

IDEXX Reference Laboratories, a consortium of test laboratories around the world, announced in March that it has developed a test kit for cats and dogs. After tests on over 4,000 samples from the USA and South Korea, no positive results were achieved. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated that it will not test pets unless the animal and health agencies agree to test for “a link to a known human case of COVID-19.”

Can other animals be infected with SARS-CoV-2?

Many species are susceptible to infection because they contain a protein known as angiotensin converting enzyme 2 or ACE2.

This is because the virus itself is covered by spiky projections that can attach to ACE2 proteins on the surface of animal cells. The coronavirus then “sharpens” and hijacks the cell to replicate.

Using computer databases and modeling, researchers have examined the genes of species to find out whether the ACE2 protein can be used in their cells by SARS-CoV-2. A recent study Published in Microbes and Infection on March 19, showed that SARS-CoV-2 can target the ACE2 receptor of many different species, including bats, civets, and pigs, and predicted that this may also be possible in goats , Sheep, horses, psoriasis, lynxes and pigeons.

Research by the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China suggests that the virus replicates poorly in chickens, ducks, and pigs.

The first confirmed case of coronavirus in an animal in the United States was documented on April 5 when 4-year-old Nadia a malayan tiger at the bronx zooIt has been found that the virus is likely to have been infected by an infected but asymptomatic keeper. It was later found that many of the big cats in the zoo had contracted the virus – but most showed mild symptoms and should recover.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?

There is still a lot we do not know about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but the most important point that we should repeat: there is no evidence that the coronavirus is spread by pets and pets to People.

“There is absolutely no evidence that pets have any role in the epidemiology of this disease,” said Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Drew and his colleagues are at AAHL Testing vaccines on ferrets in preclinical studies evaluating the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. Ferrets are used in the study because they are particularly susceptible to coronavirus infections. However, according to Drew, even ferret owners are unlikely to get the disease from their furry friends.

He notes that AAHL researchers don’t see “open clinical disease” in their ferrets, but “they seem to be at a mild temperature and they replicate the virus.” SARS-CoV-2 may infect these animals, but may not replicate enough to produce the symptoms that define human COVID-19.

You may also be wondering if you can pick it up from your pet’s fur? The risk is low – but not zero – because The corona virus can survive on surfaces and can be transmitted via droplets. In theory, it can remain on the fur, so you should always wash your hands before and after interacting with your animals, especially if you feel uncomfortable.

“People seem to be at greater risk for their pets than for us,” said Glenn Browning, a veterinary microbiologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

How can I protect my pets?

If you feel uncomfortable and think you have received COVID-19, you should have it tested first. If you suspect you are feeling unwell, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “restricting contact with pets and other animals, just as you would with other people.”

Prevention remains the best protection method. There are a large number of The resources provided by WHO to reduce your risk of infection and the main measures are listed below:

  • Wash your hands: for 20 seconds and no less! You can get some practical tips for washing hands here.
  • Maintain social distance: Try to keep at least 1 meter away from people who cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, or mouth: a difficult task, but this is how the virus first gets into the body.
  • Respiratory hygiene measures: cough and sneeze in the elbows!

If you are ill, you can quarantine your pets at home and limit contact with them as much as possible. You don’t have to isolate them, but try to confine them to one or two rooms in the house, wear a mask and – yes, we’ll say it again – wash your hands.

Is there a vaccine against COVID-19 in dogs and cats?

As with humans, no vaccine against COVID-19 is currently available. There is a canine coronavirus vaccine but it is directed against another member of the coronavirus family and does not offer protection against COVID-19 (note: The Australian Veterinary Association) doesn’t even recommend it for this virus).

There is Many human clinical trials and a number of different treatment options are ongoing. While some could theoretically be optimized (and even tested in some) for different types, the most promising vaccines currently under development are being developed for human use only.

Originally published in April and updated regularly with new information.

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