Speaking of Pets: Your pets, COVID-19 and you, part 2 of 2
Special to the Daily
In my last column, I wrote about COVID-19 and your companion animals. This is part two.
First: I am NOT a veterinarian, epidemiologist, or virologist. This is printed in each one of my columns in the tagline, but I wanted to acknowledge this at the top of the article as well, to stress its importance.
I am an inveterate researcher who frequently asks for advice from these professionals.
I’ll be reporting on facts from legitimate experts like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and IDEXX Small Animal Health laboratories, which is the main provider of diagnostic and laboratory products to veterinary practices.
Now, let’s look at some more facts.
They say pets carry coronavirus: should I worry?
There are many different types of coronavirus. In fact, one of them causes our old friend, the common cold. Although COVID-19 doesn’t seem to cause disease in pets, other coronaviruses do. For instance, the canine respiratory coronavirus contributes to canine infectious respiratory disease complex (also known as “kennel cough”), and canine enteric coronaviruses can cause intestinal infection. So yes, pets can become infected with coronaviruses, but at this time, health experts don’t believe they can carry COVID-19.
I heard about dogs in China being infected though.
The fact is, two dogs living with an infected human in Hong Kong tested “weak positive” for the COVID-19 virus. Experts presume that the owner may have shed virus onto the dogs’ fur, but that it never actually infected the animals. Sadly, after showing no symptoms, being tested as negative, and being released from quarantine, one dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, has died – but because the owner refused to allow a necropsy, veterinary experts can’t determine its cause of death.
What about cats?
A small study showed that cats can be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That being said, while cats can become infected and spread it to other cats, that data is based on lab experiments in which only three cats were deliberately infected with extremely high doses of the virus – much higher than are found naturally – and placed in cages next to uninfected cats. None of the infected cats showed symptoms of illness, and only one of the three exposed cats caught the virus.
So where does that leave us?
First, remember that the facts about COVID-19 change rapidly, so stay informed.
Second, remember that there’s no evidence of active transmission from pets to humans or humans to pets. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing your hands before and after contact with any pet.
Finally, remember that it’s our job to keep our companion animals safe, to protect them, and to care for them. That’s something we all need to do, now and every day.
Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at email@example.com.