Can I get COVID-19 from my pet?
There are many questions and concerns about COVID-19 infection. The most frequent questions that pet owners ask our vets are: can my pet get COVID-19, and can humans catch the virus from their pets?
COVID-19 and Pets
A wide variety of coronavirus strains occur worldwide, and some of these also affect our pets in the US. Coronaviruses get their name from the fact that they are shaped like a coronet, or crown.
COVID-19 is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). There is currently no evidence that pets play a significant role in human coronavirus infection. However, because the virus may be transmitted between humans from any inanimate object, including a pet's fur, the pet may act as a fomite. This means there is a small chance that virus particles from an infected person can be carried on a pet’s fur.
A very small number of pets worldwide have been reported to test positive for COVID-19 after exposure to an infected person. Because of this, it’s recommended that people limit their pet’s interaction with people outside of their own households.
For the latest information about Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2), please visit the World Health Organization website.
Further advice about pets and the new coronavirus is available from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Coronavirus in Dogs
Canine coronavirus disease (CCV) is highly infectious. It causes sporadic outbreaks of intestinal infection, which is short-lived but tends to cause significant abdominal discomfort. CCV was first detected in 1970 and has since been found across the world.
Most cases of CCV arise due to oral contact with infected fecal matter, as well as from contaminated food bowls, or nose to nose contact with an infected dog. Crowding and unsanitary conditions also favor transmission. Dogs may not show signs for up to four days after exposure. Clinical signs usually last for between two and ten days. Secondary infections by bacteria and other viruses may prolong the recovery time. Dogs may be carriers of the disease for up to six months after infection.
Dogs with CCV show very few clinical signs. Occasionally, dogs develop a sudden onset of diarrhea, decreased appetite, and lethargy. Mortality is low, but deaths have been reported. The infection is typically more severe in puppies, which have a weaker immune system.
There is no treatment for CCV since the infection usually resolves by itself. CCV does not affect people.
Coronavirus in Cats
Coronavirus in cats also affects the cells of the intestinal wall. Many cats become infected with coronavirus and the infection usually resolves by itself. Some cats will have gastrointestinal signs in the form of mild diarrhea; however, many cats don’t show signs at all. The virus most commonly affects cats with an impaired immune system.
In some cases, the virus may develop into Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Unfortunately, FIP is not curable. This disease has two forms: a ‘dry’ and a ‘wet’ form. A mix of both is common. Depending on the body system or organ that is affected, the symptoms vary. Affected cats may show labored breathing, abdominal distension, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, weight loss, or jaundice. Neurological signs can also be seen.
When should you contact a vet?
The signs of coronavirus can easily be confused with other diseases, so please seek veterinary advice if your cat or dog has diarrhea that does not resolve within 24 hours, or is associated with significant lethargy or loss of appetite.
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