BOONE — Although veterinary guidance suggested a month ago that domestic pets were not believed to be vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, new cases in animals have experts expressing more caution.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of an update on April 12, two pet dogs in Hong Kong and two pet cats (one in Belgium, the other in Hong Kong) have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“In each case, the pet was in the care of and had close contact with a person who had been confirmed to have COVID-19,” the AVMA stated. “Only in the case of the cat in Belgium was there a suggestion of the animal showing clinical signs of disease and, in that case, other diseases and conditions that could have caused those same signs of illness were not ruled out, and there are also questions about how samples demonstrating the presence of SARS-CoV-2 were collected and evaluated. That cat recovered.”
On April 5, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories announced a positive finding of COVID-19 in samples from one tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, according to the AVMA.
“The source of infection was presumed to be transmission from a zookeeper, who at the time of exposure had not yet developed symptoms of COVID-19,” the association stated.
The association noted that “the CDC has not received any reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, and we have no information that suggests that pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”
But until more is known about the virus, the AVMA advised, “if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.”
The association recommended having another member of the household feed and care for the animal, wearing cloth face coverings around the pet, avoiding physical contact and frequent hand-washing.
Boone veterinarian Cathy Kreis said researchers are still trying to determine conclusively if pets can either transmit the virus to people or if they can contract it from human contact.
“This is all preliminary research,” Kreis said. “It is not regarded as conclusive. There hasn’t been something in the research world called peer review. This is very early findings and small study at the moment.”
Kreis said that, based on some new research, her office will be taking precautions with all cats showing signs of respiratory illness.
“So if we handle any kitties who are having trouble breathing or coughing, they’ll have full protective equipment on,” Kreis said.
“Any time they are exposed to people on a regular basis, whether that is in the neighborhood or in the house, they have a risk of getting infected,” Kreis said. “If I go grocery shopping, don’t wear a mask and the guy next to me is not wearing a mask, and he sneezes and I bring it home to my cats, even if I’m not sick, if my cats are showing a respiratory illness, we definitely should give a veterinarian a call.”