COVID-19 vaccination for pets – is this something pet parents may need to start considering? It’s a question being raised by scientists and vets alike, and research has already begun. What we know for sure is that pets and other animals do get the virus.
To date, although people have given cats and dogs coronavirus (as in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19) they haven’t transmitted it back to us. Talk about unconditional love.
What is the role of vaccines for COVID-19 in animals? How will it contribute to pet and human safety during the pandemic? Let’s find out.
COVID-19 vaccination: status update
The World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says we could get the pandemic under control by 2022. If we vaccinate older people and health workers by the first quarter of 2021, we’ll be well on course.
Of course, pets are people too (well, sort of). They can also catch coronavirus, in the form of SARS-CoV-2. And when they do, they also need to be socially isolated. Happily, if they have symptoms they’re usually mild, and from what we’ve read at the time of writing only cats have been symptomatic.
But there is speculation that when a virus leaps between species this opens new avenues for widespread transmission. Which is why some governments are already developing a coronavirus vaccination for pets. More about that further down.
First, let’s look at human to animal transmission…
Coronavirus human to animal transmission
When a virus jumps between species, it can genetically mutate, creating new strains. The new strains can be more infectious, more virulent, or more resistant to vaccines. This is one of the main considerations around the topic of human to animal transmission.
In addition, when a virus has a larger variety of hosts, this increases its opportunity for viral spread. For example, in Denmark, SARS-CoV-2 is spreading within the mink population. As a result, the farmed mink act as a “reservoir” for the virus. In other words, the virus has plenty of healthy hosts and can continue to spread and survive. But if that reservoir wall breaks…
This could easily cause spill-over and spill-back. In other words, coronavirus can pass from humans to animals (spill-over), then from animals to humans (spill-back) and so on. Luckily, pets like cats and dogs don’t appear to pass the virus back to people.
And interestingly, the virus behaves differently in different species. For instance, while cats and dogs can both get the virus, only cats can transmit it – and only to other cats.
Here’s a table showing the way coronavirus behaves in different animals. This information is from the World Organisation for Animal Health.
COVID-19 vaccination for pets: What’s the verdict
The conclusion for now, is that we don’t need a COVID-19 vaccination for pets aka a SARS-CoV-2 vaccination 😊! Mainly because the cause of spread in humans is human contact. We don’t know how many cats and dogs have had SARS-CoV-2 but the infection rate could be similar to humans.
The main thing is, our fur kids just don’t pose a threat to us. In fact, pet love helps us navigate COVID.
That said, a type of COVID-19 vaccination for pets is being developed in Russia and clinical trials are underway. The vaccine could help protect pets, farmed animals and zoo animals.
Of course, it could help humans too. This is because humans may be able to get coronavirus from some animals, like mink. With a SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for pets we could potentially stop it in its tracks before it leaps to us, and before it mutates.
Coronavirus vaccination for pets is not all
Luckily in New Zealand, transmission has been halted through proactive measures like border control. That’s lucky for our pets too – that means they’re also less likely to be infected. And it means our pet insurance can go where we need it most. Like recovery from accidents, dental procedures, vet visits and so much more.
COVID-19 vaccination – over to you
For people around the world, the new COVID-19 vaccine means there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Even in New Zealand where the virus has been kept under control comparatively, a vaccine will be a great relief. We could ease our border restrictions, which is good for our economy, and we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Do you have COVID-19 story that involves your pet? Have they helped you through the pandemic? Let us know in the comments, we’re all ears (and wagging tails)!