The new Corona Virus (COVID-19) that has been rapidly traveling the globe has been reported in Pennsylvania as infecting a few people. There has also been a report out of Hong Kong that a dog, that was owned by an infected person, tested a weak positive for the virus. This has raised concern among the pet-owning public that their pets may be a reservoir for the virus and potentially spread it. Dr. Bryan Langlois, Medical Director of the Pet Pantry of Lancaster County and Immediate Past-President of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA), states that this is not the case and people should not be alarmed about this finding.
“Right now, there is no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 virus can cause illness in your pets or serve as a mechanism of transmission to other people,” explains Langlois. “They have been able to isolate it in testing one dog in Hong Kong, but that does not really mean anything at this time other than they looked for it, and they found it. There is no evidence it has caused any infection in any dog, cat, or horse at this time. There is also no evidence supporting that it can be spread from these animals to humans. It appears they tested for this more out of scientific curiosity than concern for possible spread. Many times, doctors and scientists find things they do not expect when testing both humans and animals, but they have no clinical significance.”
If your pet does experience signs of sneezing or coughing it is still wise to have them seen by a veterinarian to make sure something else is not going on, Dr. Langlois explains. “These are still signs of a possible infection, just not the new Corona Virus. It is still very important to have your dog or cat seen for these signs to ensure they do not need to receive any treatment for other infections.”
Some pet owners may be aware of dogs, cats, and even horses being able to be infected with Corona Virus. “This is true, says Langlois, but it is not that straight forward. It is true animals can become infected with Corona Virus, but these are different strains of Corona that are unique to these animals. In fact, one form of Coronavirus in cats can lead to the disease Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in cats. These are not the same strains of the virus as COVID-19 and we want pet owners to understand this.”
Dr. Langlois says research is continually ongoing and the best place to get the most accurate and up-to-date information for the health of your pets regarding COVID-19 is your local veterinarian. “Things have been changing rapidly regarding this new virus and information changes daily. At this time it does not appear to be a cause for concern for pets, and we currently do not feel it will be, but it is always wise to stay abreast of the latest information and not be afraid to reach out to your veterinarian with any questions you may have. It still remains, of course, that good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing, especially after playing with dogs and cats or cleaning up after them, are the best defense against any infection.”