COVID-19 in animals is something we’ve all heard about. As pet parents, we may be wondering if this poses a threat to our pet. Could they catch the coronavirus? And is there a vaccine for pets?
After all, humans first contracted the virus from an animal (which means it can jump between species). We’re just not sure which animal it was. Was it a bat? Seafood? Something else?
Professor Stephen Turner is president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology as well as head of the department of microbiology at Melbourne’s Monash University. He says it’s most likely that the virus originated in bats.
All this uncertainty does suggest that a fair number of animals can and do carry some form of coronavirus. Therefore, some of us may even be considering stocking extra masks for our cats and dogs (which BTW is a no-no). Or at least practicing social distancing with their furry friends.
When it comes to COVID-19 in animals – and by that we mean SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – let’s make informed decisions by looking at the facts.
COVID-19 in animals: Can pets get coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation humans can transmit this coronavirus to pets and certain other animals. Cats and dogs have both contracted the virus after close contact with an infected person.
In addition, lions, tigers, and minks have also tested positive. Pigs and chickens are apparently in the clear – they aren’t susceptible to the coronavirus in its current form.
Self-isolating involves pets
Anyone who tests positive with this coronavirus is advised to self-isolate from their pets, as well as other people.
While pets can get coronavirus from people, experts say they don’t play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people. However, this is still not concrete – the World Organisation for Animal Health currently says cats and dogs don’t transmit to us while others say cats can transmit to humans.
In fact, our pets have played an important role since the pandemic started, as pet love helps us navigate COVID.
Now we know these facts, let’s move on. If our cat or dog does get this coronavirus, will they get sick? Let’s find out…
Coronavirus and pets – symptoms
Pet parents will be happy to know that no pet has died from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (at the time of writing). And, like people, pets don’t always experience symptoms. When pets do have symptoms, they’re mild and home care is seen as the main course of action.
Symptoms in animals can be very similar to symptoms in people.
They may include:
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- Unusual tiredness
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
COVID tests for pets
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says COVID tests for pets are available for most types of pets. CDC only recommends testing of pets if they show symptoms and have been in close contact with an infected person. Speak to your vet to explore testing if you feel you need to.
If a pet has coronavirus, keep them away from other animals, limit your own contact as much as possible (just in case), monitor their progress and let your vet know if there are any changes from their original symptoms.
If your pup has symptoms that look like COVID 19, they may in fact have kennel cough. Read Kennel cough in New Zealand: what you need to know to find out more.
Caring for your COVID pet
Because pets are people too (sort of), the reality is that they can and do get coronavirus. The virus can affect pets, wildlife, farm animals, and zoo animals. And different species are affected differently. What if we lose an endangered species? So even though pets are largely asymptomatic a COVID-19 Vaccination for Pets is being developed.
COVID-19 in animals: Precautions to take
When cats or dogs test positive for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, there are some precautions for pet parents to take.
Firstly, speak to your vet about the best course of action to take based on your pet’s diagnosis plus how well they’re doing. They’re your pet’s health professional so they’re the best person to give advice on how to deal with the situation.
Secondly, isolate your pet from other pets and people with a designated “sick-room”. Make this comfy with a pet bed, toileting area, food and water bowls, favourite toy/s, and so on. Ensure you have cleaning sprays and other materials on hand within the room too.
Thirdly, practice safe hygiene. Just as you would if you were caring for a human infected with COVID-19. More on this further down.
Indoors is best
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how and where your pet can be while they recover.
Dogs with SARS-CoV-2 need to stay indoors unless letting them out won’t result in them exposing others to the illness.
If you have a private, contained garden and can maintain social distancing, garden breaks for toileting are fine. Walks (if necessary) should be limited to toilet breaks and be very close to home. When doing so, maintain a two-metre gap between your dog and other people/pets. No contact and no dogs sniffing other dogs etc. Poor pooch!
Cats with SARS-CoV-2 need to be indoors – sadly this means no roaming whatsoever. There have been some recorded incidents of coronavirus transmission from one cat to another, which needs to be prevented. Cats are more at risk of being symptomatic than dogs are, and younger cats are higher risk that adult cats.
COVID-19 in animals: Keeping yourself safe
Whether you’re caring for a sick cat or dog, taking care of your own health is paramount.
Practising safe hygiene should include the following:
- Wear gloves when cleaning up after your pet, disposing of them in a sealed bag straight afterwards
- Wear a mask as well as the gloves when you’re in the same room as your pet
- Throw away used litterbox contents in a sealed bag too
- Disinfect food and water bowls, as well as toys, with an EPA-registered disinfectant and rinse well
- Wash cleaning materials and bedding regularly in very hot water (taking them directly from the sick room to the washing machine)
- Don’t share items your pet uses with other people/pets
- Wash your hands with soap after cleaning up, using the World Health Organisation guidelines
- DON’T use chemical disinfectants on your pet
- And sadly, no cuddles during this time
- If you have a chronic condition or compromised immune system someone else should care for your pet at this time
Usually, pet isolation lasts for two weeks from testing positive. Your pet will need to test negative/shows no symptoms for 72 hours before they can be considered clear of the virus.
Always check with your vet first so you can be sure.
When pets get coronavirus
Pet insurance means that you can keep your pet in optimum health with regular check-ups, medication, and vaccinations. Pet insurance is not a pandemic choice, it’s a forever choice about all-round quality of life for your pet. Having a cat insurance plan or a dog insurance plan protects against the foreseeable and unforeseeable.
COVID-19 in animals – over to you
Working from home has changed our lives and made a vast majority of pets much happier. They now have constant access to their people. The new norm means everyone from CEOs to admin assistants can conference call from home while their cat naps in their lap. Dogs owners can play ball with their dogs during coffee breaks.
Tell us your furry-tales in the comments about working from home with your pet during the pandemic, or about how you feel about COVID-19 in animals.