When do we panic about pets catching coronavirus?
We are all watching headlines. In fact, we are feeling overwhelmed by them and then we read that 2 cats have become ill and tested positive for coronavirus. Now, not only do we fear for ourselves and our vulnerable loved ones, but we look at our household pets and we fear for them too.
According to the press release from the CDC1, to date, only 2 pet dogs and one pet cat globally have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and these pets were in households with infected humans. Two pet cats tested positive recently in the U.S. One of these lived in a household with a known case of human COVID-19 and the other is suspected to have been in contact with an asymptomatic person. Both cats exhibited only mild respiratory signs and are expected to recover without incident. Another cat in the home with one of these infected cats has shown no signs of illness at all.
There has been NO evidence to suggest that pet animals serve as a source of infection for humans and the cats that tested positive are expected to recover completely.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has published information to guide pet owners faced with this situation. If you are ill, follow the same guidelines when interacting with pets that you would with other human family members.
Practice social distancing as you have been advised to this point, just include your pets. This means to limit access of pets to people outside your household.
If you are ill, be aware that you could be a transmission risk to your pets, so limit your interaction for your convalescent period. Ask a family member to care for your pet while you recover. Snuggling your pets and sharing food and sleeping quarters is not ideal during your illness. If you must care for your pet while you are feeling sick, wash your hands, before and after handling your pet or any of their items, such as food, dishes, or bedding.
It is also critical to know that testing of animals does not reduce the availability of human test kits. Animal labs are performing the animal testing as a service to help us understand this pandemic. IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. (NASDAQ: IDXX) has tested more than 5000 specimens from dogs, cats and horses exhibiting respiratory signs, originating from 17 countries, and found no positive results. Additionally, Idexx Laboratories’ human health business, OPTI Medical, is taking advantage of their vast experience in animal testing to develop a PCR kit for use in humans to further the availability of testing for everyone.
The answer to when do we panic about pets catching coronavirus is “Never.” Panic makes us irrational and afraid and renders us unable to make good choices. Depend on science. At this time, the number of pets that have tested positive is just not significant enough to warrant drastic action on the part of anyone. There is no need to relinquish your pet or live in fear. Just be smart about your choices and err on the side of caution. We can get through this difficult time if we educate ourselves and follow published guidelines.
Kathryn Primm, DVM, CVPM is the owner and founder of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee. She sees patients, manages a busy small animal practice, and enjoys writing for and speaking to veterinary professionals and pet lovers. She has written and contributed content to many outlets, including magazines like Woman’s Day, Prevention and Health as well as veterinary focused press.