Owners of pets infected with COVID-19 are at risk of spreading the virus to their cats and dogs – which can also end up with the respiratory system – according to a study.
Veterinary experts from Canada have warned those suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus to stay away from their furry friends – for the sake of the latter.
While there is no evidence so far that humans contract COVID-19 from animals, experts have said it could be possible because the virus does not change between species.
In their study, the team analyzed households in which pets developed respiratory symptoms at the same time as their humans suffered from coronavirus.
Pet owners infected with COVID-19 are at risk of spreading the virus to their cats and dogs – which can also end up with the respiratory system – a study found (stock image)
“These preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets in households of people with COVID-19 are infected,” said author and veterinary pathologist Dorothee Bienzle of the University of Guelph, Canada.
In the study, people who owned a cat or dog – and in one case a ferret – and who were diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 were asked to have their animal swabbed.
If humans were outside the two week window of suspected infectivity, antibody tests were offered to look for recent or past infection, using IgM and IgG antibodies, respectively.
Of the 17 cats, 18 dogs and one ferret, all cats were tested and none were found to be infectious, but some showed signs of infection.
Ferrets and related species like mink are very susceptible to infection, the researchers noted.
“All cats with an indeterminate PCR or positive antibody results were reported as having suffered from respiratory and / or other illness by their owners at the time of the owner’s COVID-19 infection,” said the Professor Bienzle.
“20% of the dogs tested positive for IgG antibodies – indicating a previous infection – and one of them reportedly had an episode of respiratory disease.
However, she added, “no dog had positive IgM results, which would have indicated a more recent infection.”
Veterinary experts from Canada have warned those suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus to stay away from their furry friends – for the sake of the latter (stock image)
“The number of eligible participants was limited by relatively low rates of human transmission in the study area,” said Professor Bienzle.
However, she noted, “these preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets in households of people with COVID-19 eventually develop antibodies.”
“Due to the small window of time available to detect a current infection in pets – particularly if their owner is still ill and in the process of isolating – it is best to test the animal’s blood at some point. to check for a previous infection to assess transmission. “
“Transmission from mink to humans has been reported in mink farms with a high proportion of infected animals kept nearby and cared for by humans,” she continued.
“Transmission from pets to humans has not been reported, but because the virus changes little or not at all after human-to-animal transmission, such reverse transmission can occur. “
Professor Bienzle and his colleagues have encouraged people with coronavirus to stay away from others and their pets.
“There is sufficient evidence from several studies, including our own, to recommend that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 should isolate themselves from people and animals,” she said.
The full study results were presented at the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference on Coronavirus Disease, which is being held virtually from September 23 to 25, 2020.
“Preliminary results made available at conferences prior to publication and replication of further peer-reviewed studies are useful in stimulating discussion and further work, but at this point are just that: preliminary results,” said University of Nottingham veterinarian Tim Morris, who was not involved in the study.
“The constructive challenge should then begin as this summary is presented, with questions including how the antibody results compared to those obtained before the first COVID-19 report and whether the tests for antibodies are specific for COVID.
The team, he added, must also “totally exclude other animal coronaviruses and […] other causes of respiratory infection in cats. “
“As such, these results should not be over-interpreted and therefore cause unwarranted alarm, especially since there is currently no evidence of contagious transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from animals to humans. “