A recent study done on five cats in China seems to indicate that SARs-CoV-2 can be transmitted via respiratory droplets to other cats. This work is yet to be peer-reviewed to assess how reliable the information is, although experts do think the findings were credible. Importantly the findings DO NOT indicate that cats can spread the disease to humans. Dogs, ducks, chickens and pigs did not seem to transmit the virus in this manner, although ferrets also appear to be susceptible to ferret-ferret transmission.
On 1 March it was reported that a Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and further testing, including gene sequencing, suggested that the dog had a low-level of infection and that this is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission. The dog did not show any clinical signs of disease and following repeated testing and negative results, was released from quarantine. The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) stated that “There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick.” A second dog in Hong Kong also tested positive and, again, showed no clinical signs.
On March 27th there was a case reported of a cat in Belgium who became infected with SARs-CoV-2 by it’s owner. About a week after the cat’s owner started showing symptoms, the cat also developed breathing difficulties, diarrohoea and vomiting. Samples of faeces and vomit from the cat were positive for SARS-CoV-2. However it is not known whether the cat was infected with the virus, or if the faeces and vomit were contaminated by the environment / infected owner (It is worth noting the infected owner took the samples from the cats faeces and vomit him/herself).
According to the OIE the current spread of Covid-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. Current evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 has an animal source but this remains under investigation.
Our advice for pet owners diagnosed with / suspected of having Covid-19 is:
- Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary animal health measure until more information is known about the virus.
- If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
- Keep cats indoors if possible and try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practice good hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals play a role in the spread of the disease.
- If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice.
- If your pet requires emergency treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.