It happened last week. A Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Thus, pets entered the conversation about the coronavirus. An alarming possibility was raised. Can pets be part of the coronavirus transmission chain? Can it be damaged, transmitted, prevented? Those are some of the queries that came up about pets and the coronavirus.
Low risk for now
The Hong Kong Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (AFCD) went out to explain it. In a fact sheet last week, they discussed Pomerania. It only gave a "weakly positive" result for the virus in sensitive tests that detected viral RNA in nose and mouth samples. «The dog has a low level of infection. It is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission, ”wrote AFCD. “We strongly recommend that mammalian pets, including cats and dogs from households with infected individuals, be quarantined. Public and animal health must be safeguarded ”.
Shelley Rankin is a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia. She was interviewed about the risks of COVID-19 infection in pets. His laboratory is part of the Veterinary Laboratory Research and Response Network of the US Food and Drug Administration. It is a collective of veterinary diagnostic laboratories. It helps determine the impact of the pandemic, and the relationship between pets and the coronavirus. This is the interview, summarized.
Q: Can we pass the new coronavirus on to our pets?
A: The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from human to human. There is no research to support the spread of humans to animals at this time. The samples from the Hong Kong dog had a small amount of virus particles present. In an animal with no clinical signs of disease, it is difficult to say what this means. It was a unique case, and we learned that we need to do much more research on the potential of the human SARS-CoV-19 virus to infect animals.
That said, cats and dogs are also mammals. They have many of the same types of receptors in their cells as we do. Then the virus could theoretically bind to these receptors. But will it enter its cells and replicate itself? Probably not.
Still, people infected with SARS-CoV-19 should limit contact with their pets. Wash your hands and don't let them lick your face. If the virus is in your secretions, and there is some potential for transmission, these are the ways it could be transmitted.
Q: Should we test the pets of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19?
A: That is not everyone's top priority right now. However, it should be discussed if we start to see more cases like Hong Kong Pomerania.
What if they were carriers?
Q: Can pets serve as a reservoir for the virus and pass it on to us?
A: If pets can become infected, and we don't know if they can, then yes, they could serve as a reservoir. And in that case, we would have to deal with them in the same way that we are dealing with human cases. We would have to think how to treat them. Like human hospitals, veterinary hospitals would have to be prepared for an increase in the number of cases.
Q: Would we also quarantine our pets?
A: Yes, just like humans, some could be quarantined in a hospital. Or a shelter. Or even a dog daycare. If they had the virus but were not sick, you could quarantine them at home. You want to limit your contact with them. Maybe keep them in a room away from other people and animals. You should wash your hands frequently and perhaps wear a mask when you enter the room.
Q: If you have people in the same house, some in quarantine and some not, can the pet visit both?
A: No. As a precaution, the answer should be no.
Q: What should we be doing now to protect our pets?
A: It is important to include pets in planning. If you get sick and quarantined, you need to make sure you have extra pet food on hand. And inform your neighbors of any feeding, walking, or medications your pets need in case they cannot return home. Get ready now.