My name is Dr. Edison Barrientos. I’m a veterinarian with twenty-seven years of experience working in downtown Toronto. I work out of Dundas Euclid Animal Hospital, Front Street Animal Hospital, and Wellesley Animal Hospital.
I wanted to talk to you today about the COVID-19 and pets. It is a very common question nowadays.
As we all know, pets are a big part of our life, they are very close to us, they live in our homes, share our beds, therefore it is important to know what the risks are with COVID-19 and pets.
COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) AND DOGS
Fortunately, dogs are not good hosts for COVID-19. There have been a few cases of dogs that have tested positive after exposure from their owners. The owners were infected and they infected their dogs.
The dogs did not show any signs of illness and they didn’t seem to pass it on to any other animals or people. So that’s very good news for dog owners.
It is true that just like any other surface or object, the COVID-19 virus could potentially survive on the coat of the dog for a certain period of time, so that’s a potential concern. However, it is a low-level concern.
COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) AND CATS, FELINES AND FERRETS
In the cat, there is some evidence that they can become infected with COVID-19 and actually develop a respiratory illness similar to what humans get, that is sneezing, coughing, fever, lack of appetite.
This evidence comes from a Chinese study where cats were infected with COVID-19. They were followed up and showed respiratory signs and then cats that were healthy in the same environment also picked up the virus.
In addition to this experimental test out of China, there’s now some evidence out of the Bronx zoo in New York City. There, an infected COVID-19 zookeeper passed on, the illness to a tiger who went on to develop a respiratory illness and also tested positive for COVID-19.
This information indicates potential human to feline transmission, which is something that is very important to take note of. How common and widespread this is, we still don’t know, but there is some evidence to prove human to feline transmission.
Feline to human transmission has not been observed. We don’t know if it is possible or not, this is an emerging virus and much of the information is just being discovered. However, at this point, there is no evidence of cat to human transmission.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR OUR PETS?
If you have COVID-19 or you are exhibiting signs consistent with COVID-19, we should apply the same rules of social distancing that we are applying to humans to our pets. Therefore, avoid close face-to-face contact, wear a mask and gloves when preparing their food and if possible, stay away from them. It is also important that, because potentially cats can be carriers and transmit it, that you don’t take your cat to other places or let them out. If you are sick You should avoid close contact with your cat and dog and with other humans as well.
If you have a cat that is developing some respiratory illness just observe closely. Many times these infections in cats can be mild and self-limiting. However, if your cat is becoming more seriously ill and you have concerns, call your veterinarian.
Call first, in these types of cases. Since there is a risk of transmission between the species, we want to make sure that the vet has all the information so they can take the necessary precautions before you bring the cat into the hospital.
In these situations, a telemedicine consultation is ideal, that way you can talk to the veterinarian over video chat, the veterinarian can assess the cat over the video and then determine whether there’s a need to physically examine the cat. Don’t assume that any illness in your cat is COVID-19, there are many other things that are much more likely.
Please be aware that we as veterinarians are here to serve you. We are an essential service. Dogs and cats keep getting sick and when they need care and we’re here for you.
– Dr. Edison Barrientos