March 4, 2020
If you have tuned into the news, have been browsing social media, or even chatted with a family member, I am sure you have heard about the coronavirus and all of the concern that has arisen surrounding the disease. Most if it is of course focusing on the humans who have contracted it. But what about coronavirus and pets?
Just recently in the news, there was a report about a dog in Hong Kong that was determined to have a weak positive test for the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19. Reports about this specific dog are saying that scientists are still not sure if the dog truly has the disease, as it has shown no symptoms, but they are monitoring the dog closely. The dog may just have had the virus in its nasal and oral cavities due to environmental contamination because its owner is positive for COVID-19.
There is much to discover and at this time we cannot give a complete answer on whether or not your own dog can contract or spread this disease, but it seems rather unlikely.
Coronavirus and pets: some history
There is currently no definitive evidence that dogs or cats can become infected with COVID-19. However when researching the internet and becoming “Dr. Google”, you may find information about coronavirus in dogs and cats. Dogs and cats have had known coronaviruses for many years which are not the same as COVID-19.
Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV) causes symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge and there is no vaccination against this strain. Canine enteric coronavirus (CCV) causes diarrhea, inappetance, and lethargy and there is a vaccination available. Many veterinarians do not routinely administer this vaccination as it is not recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). By itself, canine enteric coronavirus in dogs is normally a mild, self limiting infection.
In cats, feline coronavirus (FCoV) is a common infection that can cause mild diarrhea or mild respiratory signs and in many cases pets are asymptomatic. This virus in cats can mutate within an individual patient to become a more highly virulent disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also known as FIP. There is a vaccination for FIP but it is not currently recommended due to limited evidence that it works. Humans cannot contract canine respiratory or enteric coronavirus, and also cannot contract feline coronavirus or FIP.
What to do next
Since there have been no confirmed human cases in the state of Michigan, it is no time to panic. We can remain vigilant and get updates from trusted sources about the virus and follow where new cases arise. For those that have been exposed to the virus, and especially for the people who have tested positive, we should use caution until more research can determine the risks to our furry family members. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is currently giving guidance to owners that contract COVID-19 to limit contact with their pets until we have more data.
Please go to www.cdc.gov for further information, and AAHA has also created a page on their site with information on coronavirus and pets. You may also want to see this article on coronavirus and pets in the New York Times.
If the worst case scenario does occur and COVID-19 is diagnosed in our local community, there are some actions you can take to keep yourself and your pets safe. Just as group interactions and large gatherings increase the risk of spreading human diseases, the same is true in animal-borne diseases. You may need to keep your pets home and limit interaction with other dogs. Our community may be asked to restrict movement and you will want to have supplies available for your cats, dogs, and other pets.
You can prepare for your animals at home by keeping an extra bag or two of food, additional cat litter, and backup medications. Also be sure your animals are up to date on their immunizations. At Ann Arbor Animal Hospital we’re happy to talk to our clients about coronavirus and their pets, or please feel free to contact your own veterinarian should you have further questions or need additional advice.