Do Animals Get COVID-19?

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking the world by storm, one question remains unanswered- do animals get COVID-19? There is a need to understand the relation between animals and coronavirus; can the dogs and cats living within our homes be carriers of the deadly virus? Now that most countries are imposing lockdowns due to the contagion, many pet-owners have been seen abandoning their pets in the fear that the pet might be a carrier of COVID-19. Another problem being faced is that most people or organizations volunteering to feed stray dogs have started backing out in the fear of getting exposed to COVID-19. Read ahead to get a clearer picture on Animals and Coronavirus.

Animals and Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses; some coronaviruses affect humans, while others affect certain types of animals (like cattle, camels and bats). Some coronaviruses, like feline and canine coronaviruses, remain restricted to animals and do not spread to humans.

While there do exist some coronaviruses which spread from animals to people and then between people, this occurrence is mostly rare. In the case of COVID-19, the exact source of the emergence of this virus is not yet known. Although it has been tracked down to a live animal market in China, the virus is now spreading from one person to another. It draws stark similarity with the virus that had caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

At this time, the spread of the virus causing COVID-19 has been traced as being transmitted from one person to another, through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. However, no evidence has been gathered that companion animals or even pets are careers of the virus, or hold the capability to transmit it to humans.

Can Pets Get COVID-19?

Although pets have not yet been classified as a source of spreading COVID-19, several species of dogs and cats have tested positive for the virus after coming into close contact with humans affected by COVID-19. Currently, there is no evidence that infected animals can pass on to the infection to healthy people.

As of now, animals have not been identified as carriers of the virus; all the cases in the world have been a result of human interaction.

It has been found out that ferrets are highly susceptible to COVID-19, which has also resulted in them being considered appropriate for vaccine testing for the virus. Already being used in influenza studies, several labs have started COVID-19 testing on ferrets. On the other hand, testing on animals like pigs, chickens and ducks identified no infectious virus within these animals. As of now, it has been found that only cats hold the capability to spread it to other cats, but the transmission rates are low. Cats, nevertheless, are not sources which can affect humans. Dogs are also not carriers of the virus, and are neither easily affected by it.

However, since some zoonotic diseases (those shared by animals and humans) continue to exist, one must take certain precautions to ensure that their pets remain safe from contracting it. Both symptomatic and healthy individuals can take the following precautions to contain the spread of the virus to animals-

  1. Wash your hands after handling animal supplies, including their food, waste and supplies
  2. Practice good pet hygiene
  3. Clean up after pets properly
  4. Talk to your veterinarian in case of any queries regarding your pet, or if they show any symptoms of being ill

Dogs and Cats affected by Coronavirus?

A per studies conducted on dogs and cats, it was found out that cats carrying COVID-19 can transmit it to other cats; however, dogs remain largely unaffected. However, the mode of transmission in cats is still not realized, and it is believed that the rate of transmission is not very high amongst cats. This is because most of the cats affected by the virus do not show any symptoms of the same. So far, a cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong have reportedly been affected by the virus.

As of now, researchers have indicated a need for more tests to understand the nature of the virus within animals. Drawing similarities from the SARS Pandemic, it was found out that there was no indication that it could become widespread in house cats, or can be transmitted from cats to humans.

Dogs, on the other hand, have been found to be less susceptible to the disease. On a study conducted on five dogs, two were found to have excreted viral RNA in their faeces; but, none of them contained any infectious viruses.

However, since majority of pet owners are parents to dogs or cats, the following precautions must definitely be followed while handling cats and dogs:

  1. If you are sick, get another (healthy) member of the family to look after the pet
  2. Avoid physical contact with the pet, including kissing, cuddling, licking or sharing food
  3. Maintain hand hygiene- keep washing your hands before and after you cater to your pet

COVID-19 has brought the world to a halt, but no relation has been found between coronavirus and animals transmitting it to other humans. Even if pets can get COVID-19, it does not make them carriers of the virus. Thus, in these trying times, let us not leave our furry friends i.e. cats and dogs behind. By taking precautions, we can keep ourselves as well as our pets safe and COVID-19-free.

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