COVID-19 and Your pets in the Vail Valley

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COVID-19 and Your pets in the Vail Valley

Over the past several months, COVID-2019 has swept the globe leaving destruction in its wake. It is a pandemic that has affected almost everyone’s life in one way or another, whether that be contracting the virus itself, loss of employment, or outstanding stay at home orders. One important question to ask during this time—does the virus affect our furry family members, our pets?


The virus that causes COVID-2019 is a betacoronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. There are many different types of coronavirus, and in animals there are several specific types that are known pathogens that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal disease. For example, part of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex, commonly known as “kennel cough,” is caused in part by a canine coronavirus. Feline infectious peritonitis is caused by a mutated enteric coronavirus and causes a severe, deadly inflammatory disease; however, these coronaviruses are species specific and do not cause disease in any other species than their intended host. To date, SARS-CoV-2 has so far been shown to only cause disease in humans.


To test for SARS-CoV-2 in animals, a real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) test is used which does not cross-react with any other types of coronaviruses. So far, two dogs have tested positive in Hong Kong and neither showed any respiratory signs of disease. One cat tested positive in Belgium with gastrointestinal and respiratory signs that was owned by a person infected with SARS-CoV-2, but it is not known if the sequences of the virus in the human and the cat were similar and other causes of disease in the cat have not been ruled out. At present, there is still limited information on SARS-CoV-2 in pets but according to the data available it seems for now that pets are not easily infected with this virus, and there is little evidence that they become ill or can transmit the virus to humans or other pets.


One of the leading veterinary diagnostics companies, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., announced on March 13 that after testing thousands of dog and cat specimens for SARS-CoV-2 they have found no positive results from their specially developed PCR veterinary testing system. For now, since the virus appears to be mainly transmitted person-to-person, it is not recommended to regularly test dogs and cats with respiratory signs for COVID-19. However, IDEXX President and CEO Jay Mazelsky said they would be ready to make the test available if health authorities determine it to be clinically relevant (Idexx 2020).


Currently, there are no commercially available vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 for humans or animals, so prevention is the best course of action for you and your pet. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that thorough hand-washing before and after handling your pet is of utmost importance. If you are sick with COVID-2019, if possible ask another member of your family or household to walk, feed, and play with your pet. Do not hug, kiss, or share food, eating utensils, or bedding with your pet until more is known about this virus. It is important to be prepared by having an emergency kit readily available for your pet as well. This includes keeping a 2 week supply of your pet’s food and medications ready in case you are not able to leave your home to get these necessary items.


Again, while these are good preventative practices to have in place, there is not yet any supporting evidence that pets can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to people or other animals. For the most current information on COVID-2019 in animals consult the American Veterinary Medical Association at avma.org, the CDC at cdc.gov/covid19, or the World Health Organization at who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. For any questions or concerns you have about respiratory disease in your pet, please contact your regular veterinarian.


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