After a popular news story circulated this week, regarding a zoo tiger who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, many pet owners began to wonder: Could my cat also contract coronavirus? It’s a reasonable question, and the World Health Organization is indeed looking into the matter. Here’s what they have to say about pet transmission.
Yes, they’re looking into it. Considering this coronavirus is a new strain, we don’t know everything about it yet. Researchers in Wuhan, China found evidence that cats can indeed contract the virus. That information was duplicated by a case in Belgium. Meanwhile, a few dogs have also tested positive in Hong Kong. But since we don’t conduct widespread testing of pets at this time, we don’t know for sure how common the infection really is.
Can animals contract coronavirus from humans? This appears to be the case, as the Bronx zoo tiger apparently caught the virus from her handler. At this time we don’t have enough evidence to determine whether the respiratory infection tends to be severe in animals, as it sometimes can be in humans. Nadia, the tiger, is happily doing quite well and is expected to recover.
Can humans contract coronavirus from animals? So far, no evidence has pointed toward pet-to-human transmission. But since we still have a lot to learn about this particular virus, it wouldn’t hurt to assume that this mode of transmission is possible. For the time being, helping your pet practice “social distancing” wouldn’t be a terrible idea, especially if you fall into one of the high risk groups yourself. Keep your cat indoors, and allow your own distancing measures to apply to your dog when you take him for walks.
If an owner has COVID and you cough or sneeze on your pet then the virus can end up on their coat or collar and then infect a human. Owners who are ill should try to avoid their pets- no petting or cuddling with them and letting someone else take care of them to decrease risk. Pet owners should have an emergency plan in place that includes someone to call and take care of their pet if they become ill. We recommend having someone in the house who is not ill or someone outside the house who can come take care of the pet. If the pet goes to another home then we recommend that the pet be washed as well as any collars or leashes. We also recommend having an emergency kit for your pet that contains 2 weeks worth of food, medication and anything else they might need.
While veterinarians are considered an essential service, we do recommend bringing your pet in only for urgent care or critical vaccinations such as for puppies that are considered a high risk group.
If owners do need more information they can go to American Veterinary Medicine Association at www.avma.org/corona.
Try not to worry too much if you hear alarming stories on the news. At this point, with so little completed research on the novel coronavirus in pets, anything you hear from TV or Facebook is likely to be conjecture. Give us a call if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, and continue to practice safety protocol for yourself. We will update you as we learn more about this developing area of research.