COVID-19 has been in the news for many weeks, yet pet owners still have questions. Here are our answers to the most common concerns.
Question: I hear COVID-19 is part of a family of viruses. What does that mean?
Answer: Think of the COVID-19 virus as a member of a family, as JFK was a member of the notable, large Kennedy family. The coronavirus family includes COVID-19, SARS, and MERS in humans, as well as canine and feline coronaviruses. Each member of the coronavirus family has individual qualities, such as the species they affect, as well as shared characteristics. For example, coronavirus family members, including COVID-19, are spread when an infected person coughs and expels aerosolized droplets, which a person nearby inhales. Also, family members tend to infect the respiratory system or the intestinal system.
Q: Does COVID-19 affect humans, and cats and dogs?
A: COVID-19 is the coronavirus family member that infects only humans. Dogs and cats are not natural COVID-19 hosts, although they can be infected by different coronavirus family members.
- Dogs — The two coronavirus forms in dogs—enteric and respiratory—affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing self-limiting diarrhea, and the respiratory tract, which is often linked to kennel cough cases, respectively.
- Cats — Feline coronavirus is the enteric form, which causes mild diarrhea, but can develop into the more severe feline infectious peritonitis in rare cases.
IDEXX, the largest US veterinary diagnostic facility, has tested thousands of dogs and cats and found no pets positive for COVID-19, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conclude that COVID-19 cannot infect dogs and cats .
However, confusing this data are reports of two dogs in Hong Kong that tested positive for COVID-19. Both dogs lived with COVID-19-positive owners, but they showed no illness signs, and later tested negative after being quarantined. Other same-household dogs tested negative, indicating that positive dogs are not infectious to other dogs. Whether COVID-19 particles were present on the infected dogs because the infected owners coughed on them, or whether they were infected by the virus, remains to be determined, but is unlikely, since the dogs later tested negative. For COVID-19 to infect a dog, the virus would have to mutate, or change, because viruses cannot jump species without mutating. At this time, dogs and cats are considered safe from COVID-19.
Q: If I become infected with COVID-19, how do I keep my pet safe?
A: Out of an abundance of caution, the American Veterinary Medical Association is recommending that should you become infected with COVID-19, you ask a family member or neighbor to care for your pet until you recover. The COVID-19 virus can survive for a short time on objects, such as countertops and door knobs, and pets’ fur, although with the latter, the virus likely will get trapped deep in the fur, making transmission unlikely. Still, it is recommended that you keep your pets from interacting with people while you are ill, and always wash your hands before and after contact with your pet, again out of an abundance of caution.
Q: Is veterinary care still available for my pet?
A: The veterinary community is adapting rapidly, to continue to provide products and services to pets who need care or treatment. Veterinarians have been asked not to perform elective procedures, and many hospitals, including LaGrange, are not allowing pet owners inside, to prevent COVID-19 spread. If you are concerned that your pet needs care, please call us, and we will help you decide your next step. If you need your pet’s medical or diet prescription refilled, call us ahead, so we can have it ready when you arrive.
The LaGrange team knows our clients are stressed from COVID-19 fears. We are adapting to the situation as it develops, but will always be here to care for your pet—remember, all the evidence points to pets being safe from COVID-19. Sadly, pet owners fearing—wrongly—that they can get COVID-19 from their pet has led to mass surrenders of pets to animal shelters. Don’t give up on your pets during this pandemic. They are likely anxious, too, and you can comfort each other. Keep up to date on COVID-19 by calling us, or checking for accurate information from reputable animal and human health organizations, such as:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
We are hoping things get back to normal soon, but until they do, contact the LaGrange team with any questions and concerns. Our protocols may keep changing, but we will always do the best we can to assist you, while keeping you, your pet, and our team safe.