COVID-19 and Pets: Is Your Dog or Cat at Risk of The Wuhan Coronavirus?

by Feb 18, 2020Pet Lifestyle

[Last Updated: Apr 26, 2020] The Wuhan Coronavirus, formally known as the SARS-CoV-2 is the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken humans all around the world by storm. It is obvious to worry about our companion animals in the event of this outbreak. Is your pet at risk or puts you at risk of the deadly disease? Let’s find out!
 
Here’s everything you must know about COVID-19 to ensure safety for you & your pets.

What are Coronaviruses?

The Coronaviridae family gets its name, in part, because the virus surface is surrounded by a ring of projecting proteins that appear like a solar corona when viewed through an electron microscope. (Source: AVMA)
 
They are a large group of viruses that originate in animals. Some of them are zoonotic in nature, meaning that they can transmit to humans. They cause a range of upper-respiratory-tract illnesses – some as common as flu, while some others are as severe as pneumonia. These viruses are contagious and spread among persons on direct contact. However, they are usually not easily communicable across species.

“Such viruses often originate in bats, but may travel through other species towards infecting humans.”
– Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance

Coronaviruses in Dogs and Cats

Coronaviruses originate in animals, it is natural that they affect animals too. Pet animals, such as dogs and cats are prone to certain types of coronaviruses too. Dogs can contract an Alpha type Coronavirus called CCoV (Canine Coronavirus) and FIPV-FIP (Feline Coronavirus) is the type of Coronavirus known to affect cats. Both of these have vaccinations available.
 
NOTE: Canine and Feline Coronavirus are not the same as the current COVID-19 causing SARS-CoV-2
 

The Wuhan Coronavirus or COVID-19

COVID-19 was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. The origin of the virus is still being debated, but current belief is that the SARS-CoV-2 originated in Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market. Since then it has spread across China and all around the world through travelers. Until the last update to this article (April 24, 2020), there were 2,737,866 reported cases of COVID-19 infection. Even though experts initially believed that this virus had a low mortality rate of about 3.40%, the outbreak has led to 191,423 deaths so far (6.99%), while 752,284 people have successfully recovered.
 
You can track updates in numbers of the COVID-19 outbreak here.
 
Dogs, Cats and Wuhan Coronavirus - Dogs with face mask
 

COVID-19 and Pet Dogs & Cats

Statements from authorities regarding COVID-19 and pets:

WHO: “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as dogs and cats can be infected with the new coronavirus”
AVMA: “There is no evidence to suggest that animals, including pets, that may be incidentally infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19”
MoHFW, India: “…to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can
transmit COVID-19”

At the present time, the only confirmed cases of COVID-19 in dogs and cats globally are two pet dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States. A pet cat in Belgium was also tested positive, but very few details about the case are available.
 
The two cats that have tested positive in the US lived in different areas of New York. They both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. In one of the cases, the owner of the cat was COVID positive before the cat was diagnosed, leading to the assumption that the cat received the virus from its owner. There was another cat in the same household who has tested negative. However in case of the other cat, no members in the family have tested positive for COVID-19 yet and it is believed that the cat may have contracted the virus from an asymptomatic neighbor.
 
The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) in Belgium reported a cat that tested positive for COVID-19. Specific details about this case are unavailable, but the cat has since recovered.
 
The Hong Kong government has been quarantining the pets of every person hospitalized for COVID-19 for 14 days right from the beginning. Until 15th April 2020, 30 dogs, 17 cats and 2 hamsters have been quarantined at the AFCD facility. Only 2 dogs and 1 cat out of these have tested positive. These pets showed mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory disease. Both the dogs were recovered and released. Sadly, one of the them passed away three days after being released. “The dog was 17 years old and had ongoing health issues that were likely responsible for the death of this dog, rather than COVID-19 – AVMA
 
These cases have provided us some insight into the nature of the disease and how it can affect our pet dogs and cats. It is good to note that all the pets had mild symptoms and they are all expected to recover completely and safely. It can also be seen that the pets with a COVID positive family member contracted the virus from them, but the pets haven’t infected other family members or pets* as per current knowledge.
 
* information available about COVID-19 and pets is inconclusive and only assumptive as the number of pets affected is too low to draw any conclusions. Also note, that all information is very dynamic.
 
The nascent nature of this disease, however, leaves out a lot of questions unanswered. Like, can dogs and cats infect other pets, can they infect humans around them, can they be asymptomatic? While answering these questions may take some time, it is advisable to start taking precautionary measures to keep your pet safe.
 

Can Dogs and Cats spread Coronavirus?

COVID-19 does not spread across species according to the current information. Which means your dog or cat cannot infect you directly. As per the US Center for Disease Control, the virus seems to have emerged from an animal source but is now spreading from person to person.
 
That being said, can pets act as formites for secondary transmission of COVID-19? Probably, but the risk is very low. From current studies, we know that the SARS-CoV-2 does not like rough or uneven surfaces, like your pet’s fur. However, smoother surfaces like your pet’s nose, paws, etc. may carry the virus if they come in direct contact with an infected patient. Even then, fomite surfaces may only be a secondary mode of transmission, droplets being the primary one. But the risk cannot be outruled completely.
 
Know that this is only based on information available at the moment, and could change if new discoveries are made. This does not mean pet parents need to be in a state of panic or guilt. Just keep yourself updated with the latest news about COVID-19 and follow basic safety precautions and hygiene practices.
 
Dogs, Cats and Wuhan Coronavirus - Cat sleeping safe from COVID-19
 

Keeping Your Pets and Yourself Safe from COVID-19

The emerging cases of COVID-19 in pets do give rise to doubts. While there is no confirmed risk, it is only in the best interest of you, your family, pets and the society at large. Following are some of the steps you must incorporate in your daily routine.

  1. Keep pets indoors
    Staying home is the best one can do at the moment, and this applies to your pet too. Keep them indoors as much as possible. If walks are absolutely necessary, keep them short. Avoid going to dog parks or public places for walks. Follow all Social Distancing practices on these trips. Do not encourage your pet to interact with people from outside the household, and clean up after you come home.
     
    Note: If your pet is an indoor-outdoor pet like a cat, it is advisable to switch them to being entirely indoors for their and your safety.
  2. Wash your hands frequently
    Use soap and water to wash your hands frequently, especially after you’ve offered some belly rubs to your pet or stray dogs. Do the same before you use your hands to consume food. Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently will eliminate the virus if it’s on your hands.
  3. Cover mouth and nose while coughing & sneezing
    Symptoms of COVID-19 include a cold, cough, fever and difficulty breathing. Protect others around you, and your pets from contracting anything off you by practicing basic respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, cloth or at least your own hands when coughing or sneezing. Try staying indoors until you recover, if you can.
  4. Do not touch eyes, nose, and mouth often
    We touch a lot of things and surfaces throughout the day. Touching your eyes, nose and mouth often can transfer any virus you may have on your hands. Do not let your pet lick you before you wash properly.
  5. Avoid raw or undercooked meats and poultry in the diet
    Avoid consuming meat or eggs from eateries, cook them yourself. Only eat meat, poultry, or fish that is completely cooked and not undercooked or raw.

IF YOU START SHOWING ANY SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19 ISOLATE YOURSELF FROM YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR PETS.
 

So should I stop feeding my pet meat to avoid Coronavirus?

There is no evidence yet that confirms the spread of the coronavirus through the consumption of meat, poultry or fish. However, take basic precautions to avoid risk to yourself or your loved ones. Get your meats from a traceable and trustworthy source; especially if you feed your pet a raw diet. If you cook at home, ensure that the meats and eggs are properly cooked. Avoid packaged or processed foods or treats in your pet’s diet.

Choose a service provider like DawgieBowl for your pet’s food. We use only locally-sourced, fresh ingredients that are quality checked to meet human-grade standards. The meals are vacuum-dried to ensure protection from any possible infection, while still retaining the nutritional value of all ingredients. Of course, no by-products, gluten, corn or soy-based fillers, preservatives, colors or flavors ever make their way into our meals. DawgieBowl is safe for your pet and your family, in all aspects.

Do not deprive your pet of their staple source of protein, for reasons that have no scientific backing yet. A pet that feeds on a wholesome, balanced diet has a stronger immunity against diseases, than one whose diet lacks essential nutrition.
 

Bonus Tip: Misinformation is Hazardous

Know the latest developments regarding COVID-19 by keeping track of the news. The virus is a global health emergency and should not be taken lightly. While you do so, ensure your news/ information comes from reliable sources (links to a few provided below). Believe only articles, blogs that have the information traced back to a trustworthy source. Do not let word of mouth, forwarded messages or articles written from the purpose of creating panic get to you.

There are no vaccines for humans or animals against the Wuhan Coronavirus yet. The WHO estimates about 18 months until a vaccine is available. Meanwhile, protect yourself and your family (human and furry) by observing basic hygiene. Speak with a doctor if you observe any symptoms in yourself. Feel free to reach out to your veterinarian if your pet has been ill too.
 

Useful Links:


FOR INFORMATION ONLY – NOT VETERINARY CARE
DawgieBowl operates this online information and opinion blog for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this blog are researched from popular journals & books, online articles, and research papers. DawgieBowl does not claim ownership to the images or videos on the blog unless mentioned. Images or videos are collected from the public domain, and the rights to them lie with the photographer or copyright owner. By reading this blog or using any of the information you expressly acknowledge and understand that there are risks and limitations associated with any advice, recipes, formulas, and/or products suggested or endorsed. DawgieBowl, its parent entities, and stakeholders are not responsible for any loss, injury, claim, liability, or damage related to your use of this website, or any other site or product linked to this website, whether from errors or omissions in the content of our website or any other linked site, from downtime on the website or from any other use of this blog.
The content of this blog is NOT intended to substitute professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If your pet is sick, injured, or in need of medical attention, please contact your veterinarian or local emergency animal hospital immediately. Never disregard professional veterinary advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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