The Coronavirus outbreak is currently affecting many people throughout the world and in some places, changing the way we go about life. There are many questions and myths floating about so we thought we’d help answer, and debunk, a few of them here.
How is Coronavirus spread?
Even though Coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to have emerged from an animal source (the pangolin), the main route of transmission is human-to-human. This person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when a person sneezes, coughs or when coming into contact with infected sputum (hand-to-mouth transmission.)
I’ve heard that dogs and cats can get coronavirus?
There are species-specific coronaviruses that affect dogs and cats but it is important to realise that these are not the same as the COVID-19 strain being transmitted by humans. The strains that affect cats and dogs can cause mild gastrointestinal (enteric) signs and, very rarely, can also cause a much more serious disease in cats called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). There is a vaccine available for the canine enteric form of coronavirus. This vaccine should not be used for prevention of the current COVID-19 strain as the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different.
Can I get coronavirus from my pet?
No. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread from a pet to a human.
Can pets contract COVID-19 from Humans?
The current research suggests that COVID-19 originated in wildlife before people became infected, however ongoing investigation is necessary to determine exactly how this occurred. Earlier this year, there were reports from Hong Kong of two dogs that tested positive to COVID-19, both owned by patients infected with COVID-19. One of these was an elderly dog owned by a patient with COVID-19 which initially tested positive to the presence of the virus. However the animal underwent further testing which returned negative results,and the dog did not progress to having an active infection or any symptoms. The elderly dog has since died, however its death is strongly suspected to be due to the pets advanced age and other health conditions.
The other positive dog in Hong Kong is currently in quarantine and is not showing any signs of COVID-19 disease. There was another recent report from Belgium of a pet cat testing positive to COVID-19, the cat is owned by a COVID-19 infected person. The cat displayed symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and respiratory signs. So at this stage there is limited evidence that pets can be infected, and no evidence that pet dogs or cats are a source of infection to other animals or humans.
What should pet owners do?
The best way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to adopt good hygiene measures and this includes washing your hands before and after handling animals. The US Centre for Disease Control recommends that people who are sick, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, should restrict their contact with animals (this unfortunately means avoiding cuddling, kissing or being licked by your pet) until further information about the virus is available.
We will share any updates as we get them. The important thing is to not panic, look after each other and your pet and hopefully things will get back to normal sooner rather than later.