COVID-19 and pets: Update from the AVA President
Saturday, 28 March 2020
On Friday 27 March it was reported that a pet cat in Belgium has tested positive for the virus. It is owned by a COVID-19 infected person.
A Belgian news report on this can be read here.
This appears to be another case of human-to animal transmission. So far we are aware of only 3 cases of this in the world – 2 dogs in Hong Kong, and this cat in Belgium. Neither dog had clinical signs of the disease, nor was infectious virus isolated from the dogs. However the cat was reported to have vomiting, diarrhoea, and respiratory signs.
It is believed that human to animal transmission is still exceedingly rare. IDEXX have tested approximately 4000 canine and feline samples in Canada, USA and EU, including areas with high rates of COVID-19 in the human population. All samples have been negative to date. At this stage there is no indication that testing of companion animals is necessary in Australia.
Key messages for your staff and clients:
- This appears to be another case of human to animal transmission, which is believed to be exceedingly rare
- There is still no indication that pets can infect humans, or play any role in the spread of this disease.
- The main method of transmission of COVID-19 is human to human
- Hand hygiene is essential before and after handling your pets, as well as their food and water bowls.
- Pet owners who may be infected with the virus are advised to keep their pets with them, but minimise close contact and handling as a precautionary measure.
- DO NOT KISS YOUR PET. Avoid all close face to face contact with your pet - think of them and not yourself, please.
Update on Pomeranian dog which tested positive in Hong Kong
It has now been shown that the dog was antibody-positive, though did not show any clinical signs, and remained healthy during its period in quarantine. Sadly the dog died a few days after returning home from quarantine. It should be noted that the dog was 17 years old.
A report from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong can be read here.
"To further reassure pet owners that they will not catch COVID-19 from their pets and to encourage them to continue to take good care of them, we recommend this video from The Department of Infectious Diseases and Public Health at the City University in Hong Kong." WSAVA March 2020
Coronavirus infection DIFFERENCES in humans and pets - information and resources for veterinarians
In light of the evolving global epidemic of the human respiratory disease Covid-19 (caused by the virus SARS-Cov-2), and a report from Hong Kong where a pet dog belonging to a Covid-19 patient returned a positive test for the virus, veterinarians may be fielding questions from pet owners about a perceived risk of pet-to-human Covid-19 transmission posed by domestic pets. The current outbreaks of canine enteric coronavirus across Australia may also cause confusion in the community about disease risk.
It is important to note that many animal groups have species-specific coronavirus infections. Canine coronavirus is known to be circulating in the community and regularly causes outbreaks of enteric disease in specific dog groups such as greyhounds and shelters. Canine enteric coronavirus is unrelated to the human respiratory SARS-Cov-2, the cause of Covid-19 disease. Canine enteric coronavirus can be detected by PCR of faeces and does not pose a risk to human health. Vaccination is available for canine enteric coronavirus, but this vaccination is not appropriate for Covid-19 prevention.
Pet owners may be concerned about pets playing a role in SARS-Cov-2 transmission in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak in Australia. Current advice from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) states:
"The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare." (accessed 4/3/2020).
Veterinarians are encouraged to access up-to-date information about the Covid-19 outbreak using the below resources.
Frequently asked questions about Covid-19 and pets can be found at the Worlds Small Animal Veterinary Association's website:
Regular updates about animal health can be found at the OIE website:
FOOTNOTE: It now appears the most likely source of COVID-19 was ..... for some light reading CLICK HERE.