FECAVA Statement on COVID-19 and pets

Recently, the RNA of the SARS-CoV2 virus was found in two dogs and one cat, using RT-PCR diagnostic method. All three animals lived in close contact with infected humans, who were probably the source of the infection. Both positive dogs had the virus found in nasal and oral specimens; showed no clinical signs and were diagnosed in Hong Kong. At the end of March, the first report on the virus in pet in Europe came out. It was detected in the faeces and vomit of a cat with transient digestive and respiratory symptoms in Belgium. This infection has not yet been confirmed by the serological testing.

But are those reports showing a serious threat? In contrast to thousands of infected people all over the globe, and warnings on how highly contagious the new coronavirus is, there are only 3 reports about positive cases in pets. Considering the fact that the environment of a person infected with SARS-CoV2 is highly contaminated, and therefore pets, living with infected people are highly exposed to the virus, the risk of infection in pets is actually very low. The opinion of a Belgian animal virologist Hans Nauwynck is that we should be careful with the interpretation of a positive result in a sample from a cat, that was sent by the owner and could thus have been contaminated by the virus.

Even the studies show that pets are not easily infected with the new coronavirus. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong tested 17 dogs and 8 cats from households with confirmed COVID-19 cases or persons in close contact with confirmed patients, and only 2 dogs had tested positive.

Another study was held by IDEXX Laboratories, a leading Veterinary Diagnostic Company. They tested over 3.500 dogs, cats and horses in South Korea and the U.S. and none of the samples was found positive.
(Article on Today.com)

Just recently, researchers from Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China found out that cats can be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and can spread it to other cats, and the dogs are not really susceptible to the infection. The study was done in laboratory settings where a small number of animals were deliberately given high doses of the virus SARS-COVID-19, and one in three cats exposed to virus tested positive. None of the infected cats showed clinical symptoms of the disease. Up to now, there is no direct evidence that the infected cats secreted enough coronavirus to pass it on to people, and further research is needed to make final conclusions.
(Article by Nature and The Guardian)

Although the risk of contamination of animals by people is considered to be low, it is recommended, that the veterinary services remain vigilant for any possible new cases.

There is also no evidence, that the virus can be transmitted from pets back to humans or other pets. The current spread of disease is a result of human to human transmission. But an animal can carry the virus just like objects could, therefore a good hygiene practice (handwashing before and after handling animals, their food, or supplies, avoiding kissing animals or being licked, properly clean up after pets) is recommended.


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