The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the globe, causing panic and confusion, having an impact on both humans and animals. The news that a dog of a patient with COVID-19, from Hong Kong, and now a cat in the UK, have been confirmed to have a low-level infection of COVID-19 (likely to be a human to animal transmission) may increase the fear that not only humans but also pets can contract the virus. However, it is important to understand all the facts and that this is no more than one single case, with no other cases having been recorded. Authorities stress that it is not cause for alarm and that there is no indication that pets can spread the virus, i.e. being infected does not necessarily mean being able to transmit the virus¹. Furthermore, the dog has not reacted to the virus, showing no clinical symptoms of COVID-19, nor developed the antibodies expected when contracting coronavirus.
Pets and coronavirus
Expert authorities on public health and veterinary medicine including the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) emphasise that there is currently no evidence that pets can transmit the COVID-19 virus to humans². It is therefore important that people do not panic and abandoned their pets due to unjustified fear. Human-to-human transmission is the main route of transmission, especially through cough or sneeze droplets. It is advised therefore to avoid close contact with people exhibiting fever and coughing, to wash hands regularly, and to wear a face mask if coughing.
As the virus can survive in the environment for at least a few days, good hygiene measures should be applied when interacting with your pet as well. Avoid kissing your pet and wash your hands frequently in line with guidance from health authorities.
Canine and feline coronaviruses
The COVID-19 virus is a member of the Coronaviridae family along with 40 other species of coronaviruses and is a new strain of the 2003 SARS coronavirus.
Also, part of the Coronairidae family are the canine and feline coronaviruses. While these viruses lead to the development of specific diseases in dogs and cats, respectively, they cannot affect humans. Some people have confused canine and feline coronaviruses with COVID-19, so it’s important to remember that one ‘coronavirus’ is not the same as other coronaviruses.
Taking care of pets during an outbreak
Pets are part of our family and deserve the same level of attention during an outbreak as any other family member. It is therefore important to be prepared so that if you do need to stay at home during an outbreak, you have sufficient pet food, prescribed medication and supplies to provide adequate care for your pet. If a pet becomes ill during this time, a veterinary professional should be contacted for advice and treatment. Furthermore, it is sensible to make plans in case you are ill, so that if needed there is someone who can care for your pet.