FRIDAY, April 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Not even your beloved cat is safe from COVID-19.
Using in-depth genetic analysis, new research in the UK suggests that humans can pass COVID-19 on to their cats.
“We identified two cats that tested positive,” said the study’s lead author, Margaret Hosie. “Both came from households with suspected COVID-19.”
One case involved a 6 year old Siamese cat. In May last year, the cat had significant discharge from his nose and eyes. Swab samples were taken from the affected areas and examined for signs of respiratory infection.
Genetic sequencing of the virus found in these samples showed “that it was very similar to the sequences of isolates from (COVID-19) infected people in the same region of the UK,” said Hosie, professor of comparative virology at the MRC -University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research, in Scotland.
The other case involved a 4-month-old Ragdoll kitten who died of severe respiratory disease in April 2020. An autopsy found the kitten became infected with COVID-19 after exposure to human SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
How common is human to cat transmission?
It’s pretty common, said Dorothee Bienzle, professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. However, the variability of cases may depend on the proximity of the COVID-19 patient and pet.
If your cat becomes infected after exposure to the human COVID-19, is there a serious illness? No, said Keith Poulsen, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Madison.
“Clinical illnesses with COVID in domesticated pets are very rare,” said Poulsen. “We don’t test all of our animals, but we have worked on studies with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and we know that pets in households with COVID have a good chance of testing positive for COVID. But they rarely show clinical symptoms. ”Signs and do not require veterinary intervention, in our data. The only outliers here are ferrets and minks. You will get COVID. “
On the question of whether the transmission dynamics could be in the other direction, Hosie said that “we currently cannot rule out the possibility that the virus is transmitted from cats to humans”.
And it will be a difficult question to answer, she added, “since we could never expose an uninfected person to an infected cat to see if there would be cat-to-human transmission.”
However, Poulsen suggested that while the possibility cannot be ruled out, it is not overly worrying.
“We have no evidence that pets play a significant role in transmission to humans,” he said, “with the exception of ferrets and minks. The likelihood that this will happen at a significant or non-invasive rate is small. but not zero. “
His conclusion: “We still do not believe that cats or dogs are significant players in the ecology of COVID-19 in humans, animals or the environment,” emphasized Poulsen.
Maybe so, but the study’s authors concluded that “monitoring human-to-cat, cat-to-cat, and cat-to-human transmission will be important.”
With dogs, both Hosie and Poulsen agreed that dogs seem to have the upper hand over their feline friends when it comes to human coronavirus susceptibility.
“Dogs are contagious, but less common than cats,” said Hosie.
Poulsen agreed, noting that “science suggests cats are likely to replicate more viruses than dogs”.
The study was published on April 22nd on the Veterinary Record.
For more information on pet health, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Margaret J. Hosie, PhD, Professor of Comparative Virology, MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research, Bearsden, Glasgow, UK; Dorothee Bienzle, DVM, Professor, Veterinary Pathology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada; Keith Poulsen, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Clinical Associate Professor, Large Animal Internal Medicine and Director, Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Veterinary records, April 22, 2021