Coronavirus and Pets: Here’s What You Need to Know
The latest news on pets and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 lifestyle won’t be ending anytime soon, and our pets are riding along with us for the duration.
With the pandemic ongoing, you likely have questions: Can my pet contract the virus? What should I do with my pet if I catch it? Can I catch it from my pet?
We have some answers. Below is the latest news, research, and studies on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our dogs and cats.
April 16: Dogs Detect COVID-19 With Over 90% Accuracy, Study Finds
According to a study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs are very, very good at detecting positive samples of COVID-19.
The nine dogs—eight Labrador retrievers and one Belgian Malinois—were tested on detecting four different kinds of coronavirus samples. On five attempts, the dogs were able to register accuracy rates above 90 percent.
March 22: UK COVID-19 Variant Linked To Heart Disease in Pets
OK, let's be careful about this. A new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests that heart issues have sprouted up in "a small number of animals" who've also been infected with the COVID-19 variant that originated in the United Kingdom, Science Alert writes.
So far, we don't know if they link is causal. The study's authors write that an increase in the number of cats and dogs who reported cases of myocarditis—a kind of heart inflammation—at a London veterinary center "appeared to mimic the curve and timeline of the COVID-19 human pandemic in the UK due to the B117 variant."
Remember, these findings are preliminary, but the lead researcher, cardiologist Luca Ferasin, told The Guardian that veterinarians should still be aware of the possible link.
"My advice would be that if people suspect there's something wrong with their animal they contact their vet," Ferasin told the newspaper.
March 7: CDC Says 'Nearly 100' Pets Have Contracted COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a tweet that "nearly 100 pet dogs and cats" across the country have contracted the novel coronavirus—mostly after coming in close contact with a person who had COVID-19.
Unfortunately, us humans can transmit the virus to our pets (though the risk for the opposite is much lower). That's why the CDC recommends you treat your pet like another human: Isolate yourself away from your dogs and cats.
Thankfully, most cats and dogs who've had the virus only get mildly sick and then fully recover.
Feb. 10: South Korea Capital Begins Testing Pets for COVID-19
Al Jazeera reported Wednesday that the South Korea capital, Seoul, will begin testing dogs and cats for COVID-19 after the city reported its first feline infection several weeks ago.
The coronavirus can spread from animal to animal, though the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is low, according to the Mayo Clinic. In South Korea, health care workers and veterinarians will test the pets near their homes, Al Jeezera reported. They will only test dogs and cats who are presenting symptoms: fever, coughing, or trouble breathing, for example.
Pets who test positive will be forced to quarantine at home for 14 days. Remember, the best way to protect your pets is to keep them away from other pets or anyone presumed to have the virus.
"Please keep your dogs at least 2 meters [6.5 feet] away from people and other pets when walking them, and strictly follow antivirus measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands," said Park Yoo-mi, a disease control official in Seoul.
Dec. 16: Researchers Say Cats Are More Resistant to COVID-19 Than Humans
Cats can recuperate more quickly after contracting COVID-19, according to researchers at the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. While Latvians haven't discovered a cat with a positive test result for the virus, researchers found that some of the cats they examined had developed antibodies—meaning they had come in contact with the virus, Public Broadcasting of Latvia reports.
"Mostly this infection is self-limiting, so for two to three days the cat has such clinical signs and then the animal is recovering quite quickly,” says Kaspars Kovaļenko, dean of the LLU's Veterinary Medicine Facility.
He added that cats might be more resistant to the virus because of an immunity they've had since birth or other genetic factors scientists hope to determine in the coming months.
Oct. 7: U.S. Company Working on Vaccine for Pets
According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Medgene Labs is working with South Dakota lawmakers to fund a vaccine the company says has showed "promise" in early trials.
The company said that because animal-to-animal transmission exists, pets will need a vaccine also to help completely eradicate COVID-19.
Oct. 2: Cats Can Spread Virus to Each Other, Study Says
Cats infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans can spread it to each other, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As reported in Smithsonian Magazine, the study indicates that cats also build a "strong immune response" after they're infected. Cats that were infected with the virus were placed in a room with healthy cats, who contracted the virus after a few days.
None of the animals included in the experiment showed "clinical" symptoms of COVID-19 (coughing, sneezing).
In the Good News Department, one researcher, Angela Bosco-Lauth, said the cats could be used to help develop a veterinary vaccine because of their immune-system response.
More good news: Bosco-Lauth tells Inverse there's "extremely low" risk that your cat with COVID-19 can infect you. However, you could potentially transmit the virus to your cat, who could spread it to other animals. That means distancing from your pets if possible if you have the virus.
Sept. 18: Study: Owner, Pet COVID-19 Infections Linked
New research indicates “substantial” rates of COVID-19 infections in pets whose owners have contracted the coronavirus, HealthDay reports.
Canadien researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, gathered mucus and blood samples from cats, dogs, and one ferret whose owners had tested positive for the virus. Researchers found antibodies in the blood of all eight cats tested, meaning they were likely infected.
The cat owners also told the scientists that the cats experienced some kind of respiratory illness when the people had the virus.
Only two of the dogs tested—20 percent—had antibodies in their blood. One of them experienced symptoms.
Dorothee Bienzle, a veterinarian, researcher, and the study’s co-author, says people infected with COVID-19 should stay away from their pets.
"These preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets in households of persons with COVID-19 become infected," she says in a news release.
Researchers in China found that nearly 15 percent of the cats it tested in Wuhan, where the first known COVID-19 outbreak occurred, registered positive for the virus’s antibodies, indicating they were infected at some point.
None of the cats died, exhibited symptoms, or tested positive for COVID-19 previously. Three of the cats who registered the highest antibody levels were each owned by a human who contracted the virus, the study says.
Meilin Jin, the lead researcher on the project, says it’s “reasonable to speculate” the cats were infected because they were in a location that had been “polluted” by the virus—or that it had been transferred to them by a human coronavirus patient.
"Retrospective investigation confirmed that all of antibody positive samples were taken after the outbreak, suggesting that the infection of cats could be due to the virus transmission from humans to cats. Certainly, it is still needed to be verified via investigating the SARS-CoV-2 infections before this outbreak in a wide range of sampling," Jin says.
While more research is needed, if you have the virus, you should isolate away from your pet to keep from infecting them.
Aug. 24: Can Dogs & Cats Get the Coronavirus?
Yes, they can, according to researchers. A Pomerainian in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus early in the pandemic—back in March.
But there is good news here: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.” However, you still might want to social-distance from them if you’re infected because it’s possible they can contract the virus from humans.
Researchers are hoping the virus behaves like the common flu in dogs. The flu isn’t the dogs’ flue, so it’s assumed that dogs usually don’t pass the human flu on to other people and pets.
“Hopefully that’s the case with this virus in dogs,” says J. Scott Weese, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. “Cats are a bit more of a concern, because they are probably a more amenable host, but we need to learn more about that."