CAT-ASTROPHIC Can pets get coronavirus? How to look after your dogs and cats

After scientists found traces of the killer bug in a Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong, we look at the latest advice from vets.  

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 Animal-based coronaviruses do exist, including CCV and FIP, but they can't be transmitted to people
Animal-based coronaviruses do exist, including CCV and FIP, but they can't be transmitted to peopleCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Can pets get coronavirus?

Dogs and cats can suffer from a strain of coronavirus, but it's "totally different to the coronavirus pandemic occurring now", says an Australian vet.

A dog in Hong Kong tested a "weak positive for Covid-19" in late February, and fears over an outbreak among pets saw owners dump dogs in China's shelters, reports 9News.

Vets across Sydney have reported a rise in requests to euthanase dogs and cats as a result of groundless fears over transmission between species.

Dr Sam Kovac told 9News: "We didn't put any of the pets down."

Instead, vets have "explained there is no evidence the virus is in the Australian dog population, and no evidence that dogs can give it back to people".

He added that while coronavirus can afflict dogs, it's not the same as Covid-19 which is sweeping across the globe, infecting thousands of people.

Dr Kovac said: "Absolutely do not consider euthanasia as an option - you'd be mad."

 There are currently no suspicions that pets can be infected, or that they can spread Covid-19 to humans
There are currently no suspicions that pets can be infected, or that they can spread Covid-19 to humansCredit: Getty Images - Getty

 

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Have pets been tested for Covid-19?

A Pomeranian in Hong Kong was found to have traces of Covid-19 after its owner was diagnosed with the new virus.

The weak positive test "simply means that a small piece of viral genome was detected in a sample," says vet Sarah Caddy, a clinical research fellow in viral immunology at the University of Cambridge.

A test used to detect genetic material "is a highly sensitive method of testing but is unable to tell whether coronavirus was replicating in the dog or whether the dog had simply licked contaminated surfaces in the home", she added.

And Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at video service FirstVet, explained: "The most likely reason for the dog to have mildly positive results was due to breathing contaminated air from the owner.

"However, the dog was not showing clinical signs."

In the US, IDEXX Laboratories Inc evaluated thousands of canine and feline specimens during validation of a new veterinary test system for the Covid-19 virus.

The lab reported today that results echoed "the current expert understanding that Covid-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the Covid-19 virus."

 The world is in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic
The world is in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemicCredit: EPA

What if pet owners are still worried about Covid-19?

For dogs or cats with respiratory problems, the experts' recommendation is to contact a vet to test for more common respiratory pathogens.

Jay Mazelsky, CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, said: "Pets are important members of our family, and we want to keep them healthy and safe."

Dr Jessica May said: "The most frequent questions that pet owners ask our vets are: can my pet get Covid-19, and can humans catch the virus from their pets?

"The short answer is no, there are currently no suspicions that pets can be infected, or that they can spread Covid-19 to humans.

"That said, there are numerous strains of coronavirus that affect animals: canine coronavirus (CCV), which is highly contagious amongst dogs, and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which is an illness that can manifest from coronavirus infection in cats.

"These stains of the virus spread from animal-to-animal, but cannot be transmitted to humans."

She added: "Given that we are in the midst of a Covid-19 outbreak, and animal-based coronaviruses do exist, people are, naturally, concerned that they could contract the disease from their pets and vice versa.

"As it stands, animal coronaviruses are not showing increased numbers."

Dr May recommended pet owners should seek advice "if you fear that your pet is infected with a strain of coronavirus."

 Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at FirstVet, a video vet service, says 'pets can't get Covid-19'
Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at FirstVet, a video vet service, says 'pets can't get Covid-19'

 

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