The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans) in one tiger at a zoo in New York. They believe that a few of the large cats in the zoo began to show respiratory signs after being exposed to a zoo employee that was infected with SARS-CoV2. All of the animals are expected to be fine. This does however raise more questions about our own animal friends.
The overwhelming consensus at this point is that our pets pose no particular threat to infecting humans with the novel coronavirus. While there has been some research proving that cats can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and occasionally exhibit mild symptoms of COVD-19, there is no evidence that cats or dogs can then transmit the virus to people. Cats were also discovered to be weakly susceptible to SARS (the coronavirus pandemic in 2003) and no evidence of cat-to –human transmission was ever found.
We do know at this point that our pets can act as ‘fomites’ and carry the virus on their fur if living in an infected household. Therefore there are several guidelines to follow:
- If someone in your house becomes infected with coronavirus, they should keep isolated from any dogs or cats as much as possible. If possible have someone else care for your pets while you are sick. If this is not possible wash your hands before and after you interact with your pets and avoid snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food.
- Social distancing applies to our pets, especially during dog walks. Avoid contact with strangers or people potentially exposed to coronavirus.
- After contact with other people or certainly any exposed or infected person, bathe your pet.Consider keeping your cats indoors, eliminating the rare possibility of contracting coronavirus when roaming.
- Wash your hands after touching any dogs or cats that don’t live in your household.
The current knowledge of this novel coronavirus changes frequently and we will continue to keep you up to date with all of the latest research. What we know right now is that dogs and cats pose little, if any, threat of transmitting COVID-19 to people. So continue to love and care for your pets. They need us as much as we need them during this difficult time!