Can Our Pets Contract The Novel Coronavirus?

While the spread of medical misinformation perpetuated many myths on the international COVID-19 outbreak that got people worried, there are a number of organizations trying to undo the damage. 

Among the many false stories published, one in particular is sending pet owners into a panic. The news said that cats and dogs could be a potential reservoir of the virus, which is far from the truth.  

WHO Speaks

To prevent people from putting their healthy household pets to sleep and taking further drastic steps against innocent animals, the World Health Organization (WHO) compiled information dispelling several medical hoaxes regarding the virus on their website. On pets being infected, the claims were rubbished. 

“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans,” the WHO website reads.

Not Scientifically Possible

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), an organization representing 200,000 veterinarians worldwide, addressed these concerns with scientific accuracy in an advisory document published in the public domain.

According to the association, dogs are prone to being infected by two types of canine coronaviruses (another coronavirus strain), which are, specifically, canine respiratory coronavirus and canine coronavirus disease found in the intestine. Of the two, the canine coronavirus disease can be passed between dogs and it is diagnosed when the dog suffers from diarrhea. 

Both the aforementioned viruses cannot be transmitted to human beings and are animal-specific. “Most coronaviruses are very specific in the range of species they affect. So we’re hoping (COVID-19) is like that,” Scott Weese, researcher and Ontario Veterinary College professor, said. 

Precautions For Pet Owners

Some of the precautions that pet owners can follow are as follows:

  • Do not let cats outside.
  • Leave your animals in good care if you have to visit the hospital.
  • If you are keeping a distance from people, then keep companion animals in quarantine with you.
  • Contact your veterinarians to clear doubts.  

The advisory is very clear on what to do if your pet comes in contact with sick people.

“We do not yet know if animals can get infected. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus. Currently there is no evidence that pets or other domestic animals can be infected with this new coronavirus. Additionally, there is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals might be a source of infection to people with the new coronavirus,” the document reads. 

Furry Pets A cat rests inside a cage at a pet shop in Lima, July 24, 2015. Reuters/Mariana Bazo