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If you’re unlucky enough to contract a coronavirus infection, cuddling up with your four-legged friend can seem like the perfect pick-me-up.
But don’t grab Fido for a kiss just yet. New research suggests that if your pet is infected with Covid, coughing and spitting can put them at risk.
Scientists in the Netherlands took swabs from 310 pets in 196 households that had been found to be infected in humans. Six cats and seven dogs gave a positive PCR result, while 54 animals tested positive for virus antibodies. The researchers concluded that once they contract the virus, owners should isolate themselves from their pets.
“If you have Covid, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog as you would with other people,” said Dr. Els Broens from the University of Utrecht.
This is not the first time pets and coronavirus concerns have been raised. Unfortunately, in June last year, a German Shepherd named Buddy died after contracting Covid. In July, a Siamese cat from Surrey became the first animal in the UK to test positive.
So are our four-legged friends still at risk even though the vaccine rollout is well underway among humans? Here’s everything you need to know to keep your pet safe …
Can animals get Covid?
In short, yes. However, infections in animals are usually less severe than in humans and the risk of transmission remains low.
Small numbers of domestic cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with Covid-19 around the world. Studies show that cats are slightly more at risk because of a mutation in the gene that provides a vector for the virus.
In the case of wildlife, the numbers seem to be a bit higher. A ferret tested positive in Slovenia, and in an outbreak at a New York zoo, four tigers and three lions tested positive for coronavirus after coming into contact with a sick zookeeper. In December, a coronavirus outbreak on a mink farm resulted in the killing of thousands of animals. The industry has been closed until 2022.
Can animals give it back to humans?
Nobody is really sure, but it is unlikely. Studies have shown that transmission from human to animal is possible, as well as from animal to animal. One study found that domestic cats infected with Covid-19 can transmit the virus to other cats if they come into close contact.
However, Pete Wedderburn, the Telegraph’s veterinarian, explains that this study was more theoretical; In reality, cats are more of a “lonely creature” who doesn’t spend a lot of time in close proximity. “What we are talking about is a low level possibility; nothing to worry about, ”he says.
So far, only two cases of animals have been reported, both mink, which pass on a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans. “Theoretically, cats and dogs can function as fomite – infection-transmitting surfaces – without becoming infected with the virus, for example if a dog has the virus on its fur. This was a problem at the beginning of the pandemic but has proven insignificant in practice, ”he says.
How do I know if my dog or cat has Covid?
If your dog has respiratory symptoms like coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, or poor appetite, see your veterinarian, Wedderburn says. However, he adds that the chances of it being a coronavirus are minimal: “There are many different types of respiratory diseases that can infect pets in this way, such as the feline flu virus and kennel cough infections in dogs. Pets are much more likely to develop these common diseases [than coronavirus]. “When your pet becomes infected with the coronavirus, their symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent.
He adds that in recent months, many owners have confused a circulating strain of the canine enteric coronavirus with the novel coronavirus. “It’s an infectious virus that is transmitted from dog to dog and that sometimes causes quite severe gastroenteritis. Veterinarians have seen an increase in cases this year. It’s the same family of viruses, but it bears no resemblance to the strain of coronavirus that spreads between people, ”he says.
Should You Isolate From Your Pets When You Have Coronavirus?
Yes it could be a good idea. Wadderburn explains that, in theory, you should isolate yourself from your pets anyway when you are sick. “There are other bacteria and viruses that you could give to your pet. If you are sick in bed, there is no point for your dog to sit on your bed, possibly licking its face and breathing the same air as you, ”he says.
If you test positive for the coronavirus, Wadderburn suggests parting with your pet as much as possible to “minimize the already very low risk of transmitting the virus. If someone else is walking your dog, it makes sense to wipe your dog and dog’s leash (with pet-friendly wipes).
Daniella Dos Santos, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association, agrees, adding that self-isolating pet owners should “precautionary limit contact with their pets” and practice good hygiene, including regular hand washing. “If your pet needs grooming, wash your hands and wear a face mask before and after any interaction with them,” she says
Whenever possible, it is best to create a “bubble” with your pet to minimize contact with the outside world. However, this can be a little more difficult for cats who are used to running around freely. “We recommend owners who are confirmed or suspected of having Covid-19 keep their cat indoors whenever possible, but only if the cat likes to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors for medical stress-related reasons, ”she says.
Can you test your dog or cat for Covid?
Tests are possible for animals but are only recommended if your pet is showing symptoms and has had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. For cats, there is a specific test to identify Covid-19, Caroline Reay, head of veterinary services at the animal welfare organization Blue Cross, previously told the Telegraph. “The vet has to order it, you have to pay – and the results are not immediately visible.”
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, which developed PCR tests for dogs and cats, the sample is obtained with a swab from the deep nasal or throat region. The swab is then placed in a tube provided, which completely inactivates the virus. As with human tests, the sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Does my pet need a vaccine?
Earlier this year, a group of experts suggested that we may need to vaccinate animals against Covid-19. Their findings were based on concerns that continued development of the virus in animals, followed by transmission to humans, “poses a significant long-term risk to public health.”
In Russia, the introduction of the Carnivak-Cov vaccine in dogs, cats, monkeys and mink is already under way. The vaccine was registered in March and has six months of immunity. Another vaccine is being developed by the US veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.
Most experts believe that there is no need to vaccinate dogs and cats. “No vaccine is required from a public health perspective,” William Karesh, a health expert for the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, told Science Magazine last year.
However, in animals such as minks, this may be necessary due to their susceptibility to the virus.
Should my dog or cat wear a face mask?
New York-based Pet Masks’ sales increased roughly six-fold during the pandemic. However, experts agree that face covering is not required for pets. According to the PDSA, wearing a mask is “stressful” for pets and can interfere with their normal breathing, especially in dogs with flat faces.