Can Pets Be Diagnosed With COVID-19?

By Ellen Kershner on March 21 2020 in Answer

Coronaviruses affect people and animals differently. Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash
Coronaviruses affect people and animals differently. Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash
  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that affect people and animals differently.
  • Only a few coronaviruses that infect animals can infect humans and spread.
  • They are trying to determine if the dog has an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, but this could take several weeks.
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system is at more risk for contracting this virus.

As the COVID-19 threat spreads across the globe, pet owners are expressing concern about the safety of their pets. Since viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans, it makes sense that people are questioning if the reverse is true. What do the experts say?

Animal-Human Vs. Human-Animal

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that affect people and animals differently. While some may cause cold-like and respiratory symptoms in humans, others cause certain kinds of animals to get sick, including bats, cattle, and camels. Others only infect specific animals like cats and dogs, and do not cross over to people. Only a few coronaviruses that infect animals can infect humans and spread. This is a rare occurrence.

As of now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received no reports of any pets or animals in the United States being infected with COVID-19. More research is needed to determine how animals might be affected by, if at all, by this coronavirus.

A “Weak Positive”

On March 15, the American Veterinary Medical Association posted a story about a pet dog in  Hong Kong whose owner was diagnosed with COVID-19. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2. The dog was tested multiple times over a few days for SARS-CoV-2, and the results showed a “weak positive.” The dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, had samples taken from its nasal and oral cavities four times, with the same results, indicating a small amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

However, the testing did not show if the samples had intact viruses (infections) or merely RNA fragments. They are trying to determine if the dog has an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, but this could take several weeks. Additional testing is underway.

Safety First

 It is a good idea to wash your hands after handling pets. Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

Even though there is no evidence in the United States of COVID-19 in pets, wildlife, or livestock, it makes sense to practice the same health protocols around pets as around people. Like humans, pets can carry certain germs that make people ill. Anyone with a compromised immune system is at more risk for contracting this virus. It is a good idea to wash hands after handling pets, plus their supplies, food, and waste.

Pets should be kept clean, and their waste should be disposed of properly. They should also be taken to their veterinarians on a regular basis. When this is not possible, a phone call to the office should be made if there are any concerns. It may be possible to order and pick up a prescription for a sick pet.

 How Sick Owners Can Protect Their Pets

Any pet owner who suspects or is diagnosed with COVID-19 should restrict contact with their pets, even though there is no confirmation that animals can be infected by humans. There should be no petting, hugging, kissing, or sharing food. The best solution is to have a trusted family member or friend care for the pet during this time. If this is not possible, it is essential to wash hands properly before and after being in contact with them. Wearing a face mask is also recommended.

Since we are learning more about COVID-19 every day, pet owners can keep on top of the news to see if any new information about pets and the virus is released. This is another way to ensure the safety of one’s beloved friends.

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