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STOP IT: Dogs and Cats SO Unlikely To Get Sick From COVID-19 or Transmit It


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If you are concerned about dogs or cats getting or giving us COVID-19, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) explains why it is very unlikely, and the real stories of those two Hong Kong dogs that did indeed test positive for human COVID-19 virus.

WSAVA President Dr Shane Ryan said: “While there is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that the (17-yer old) Pomeranian dog did not die from the virus, and the second dog is also showing no signs, either of the disease or of being able to transmit it to other pets or people.  The current evidence still strongly indicates that COVID-19 cannot be contracted from pets.”

Also, consider that in Italy – where COVID-19 has sadly infected over 55,000 people – no single dog has – at least so far – reported to have tested positive for the novel corona virus, not to mention the other various affected European nations or in America. That’s lots of pet loving countries, and  not a single reported positive in a dog or a cat.

What’s more, the diagnostic laboratory IDEXX has not seen a single positive result in dogs or cats, after testing thousands (albeit unlike the two dogs in Asia, these pets were not in homes with COVID-19 symptomatic humans).

“I am not concerned these dogs are actually infectious,” says Jennifer Ogeer, vice president medical affairs Antech Diagnostics. “Determining if they are  infected with the virus, the lab used collected swabs in the dogs’ nasal cavity which is not the ideal  mucosal surface to test. Generally for a corona virus the testing that we want are oropharyngeal/oral swabs for PCR testing. Because there is an infection doesn’t at all mean they are infectious. Also, both these dogs are otherwise healthy demonstrating no signs (resulting from COVID-19).”

Still, it’s not a bad idea to wash your hands after petting a cat or dog belonging to another person. Then again, veterinary processionals have touted hand-washing to many decades without fanfare. And if you do test positive for COVID-19, a good idea to have someone else in the home care to the pet, according the American Veterinary Medical Association. This recommendation made out of abundance of caution.

Listen HERE as Dr. Gail Golab, Chief Veterinary Officer, Scientific Affairs and Public Policy at the American Veterinary Medical Association explains on my Steve Dale’s Pet World on WGN Radio what we do know and what we still may not be sure of regarding COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).

Here’s the latest WSAVA press release:

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association  has moved to reassure pet owners following the news that a dog in Hong Kong, quarantined after it had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 has died.  The dog had been released after two weeks of quarantine having subsequently tested negative for the virus.

17-year old Pomerania not only had a heart problem, but separated from owner for over a week, so stressful

The dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, had shown no clinical signs of COVID-19. However, it did have significant unrelated health problems including cardiac and renal issues and is believed to have passed away from these and old age, possibly exacerbated by the stress of quarantine away from familiar surroundings. The WSAVA confirms that there is no evidence that the dog contracted COVID-19, nor that it could have passed the viral cause to another human or animal.

On March 19, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong announced that a second dog, a German Shepherd, had also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The dog was quarantined after its owner was confirmed with COVID-19.  Although the dog has tested positive, it has no clinical signs of disease. Another dog from the same residence has tested negative for the SARS-CoV2. It also has no relevant clinical signs and has been quarantined. The dogs will continue to be tested for the remainder of the quarantine period.

WSAVA President Dr Shane Ryan said: “While there is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that the Pomeranian dog did not die from the virus, and the second dog is also showing no signs, either of the disease or of being able to transmit it to other pets or people.  The current evidence still strongly indicates that COVID-19 cannot be contracted from pets.”

The WSAVA says its priority is to support its member veterinarians who care for companion animals around the world and it urges pet owners not to panic and, instead, to continue to care for their companion animals and to enjoy their company.  In difficult times, such as these we face today, says the WSAVA, pets can play a very positive role, providing companionship to the isolated and lonely.

The WSAVA’s Scientific Committee and One Health Committee have worked together provide Advice to its members and pet owners, which can be found here: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19_WSAVA-Advisory-Document-Mar-19-2020.pdf

Dr. Michael Lappin

Dr. Michael Lappin, chair of the WSAVA’s One Health Committee and Dr. Mary Marcondes, Co-Chair of the WSAVA Scientific Advisory Committee, recommend that veterinarians remind owners to:

  • keep their companion animals with them if they are self-quarantined
  • maintain good hygiene practices, including washing hands when interacting with their pets
  • arrange care for any animals left at home with family or friends should they be hospitalized
  • contact their veterinarian immediately if they have questions or concerns.

Dr. Shane Ryan

On March 13, IDEXX Laboratories, an international provider of veterinary diagnostics and software, announced that it had evaluated thousands of canine and feline samples during the validation of a new veterinary test system for SARS-CoV-2 and seen no positive results.

WSAVA President Dr. Shane Ryan continued: “We remain very concerned at reports of many animals being abandoned, killed or taken to shelters because their owners fear that they might carry the virus when this is not supported by evidence. In addition to the suffering this causes to the animals concerned, their owners will also cease to benefit from all the positive aspects of owning a pet which are even more important as so many of us are now having to limit contact with other people.

“We urge pet owners to listen to their veterinarian’s advice and to follow our recommendations to keep themselves and their companion animals safe.”

The WSAVA represents more than 200,000 veterinarians worldwide through its 113 member associations.  Its core activities include the development of WSAVA Global Guidelines in key areas of veterinary practice, including pain management, nutrition and vaccination, and the provision of continuing education.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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