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Analysis and Guidance Regarding Cases of COVID-19 in Animals

Wenesday, April 29, 2020

On Tuesday, April 28 it was reported that a pug in North Carolina tested positive for COVID-19 after several of his human family members tested positive and showed signs of illness. Dr. Megan McAndrew, Humane Rescue Alliance vice president of medical operations, provided analysis and guidance in response to this recent development below:

Winston had a mild cough and decreased appetite for a couple of days but has recovered fully without treatment. The other animals in the home, another dog, a cat, and a lizard have tested negative for the virus and have not shown any signs of illness. It is not clear whether Winston was tested for other potential causes of illness.

Winston is another animal added to the small list of reported animals testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is not unexpected given the large number of people who have acquired the disease around the globe. Luckily, the reports of animals being infected remain few and far between and none of the infections have been life threatening. Mild coughing and decrease in appetite seem to be the most consistent signs being seen in animals.

The recommendations for pet owners remains the same: if you are sick, avoid close contact with your pets, wash your hands before and after handling your pets, keep your pets indoors and prevent them from coming into contact with other people who may have the virus. There has still not been any evidence suggesting animals can transmit the virus to humans.

Wenesday, April 22, 2020

Wednesday, the U.S. Center for Disease Control issued a release regarding two cats in New York state testing positive for COVID-19. Dr. Megan McAndrew, Humane Rescue Alliance vice president of medical operations, provided analysis and guidance in response to this recent development below:

Of the millions of cases of COVID-19 around the world, there still have been very few reports of animals developing the illness. To date, there have been two pet dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, three tigers and four lions at the Bronx Zoo, and, most recently, two cats in New York who tested positive for the virus. Of the pets who tested positive, the two cats in New York, coming from different regions of the state, are the only ones who have exhibited signs of illness. As was the case with the large cats at the Bronx Zoo, these two cats have exhibited mild signs of respiratory infection and are expected to recover fully.  

You may recall reports of another cat in Belgium who potentially had clinical signs of COVID-19 infection, but the lack of information surrounding that particular case has made it difficult to fully establish a connection. This cat improved nine days after the onset of illness. 

As for the New York cats, while one of the cats came from a known COVID-positive household, the other cat was not known to have been exposed to the virus. It is speculated that the cat may have been exposed by a family member who was asymptomatic or possibly acquired infection outside of the home. The cat from the known COVID-positive home lived with another cat who tested negative for the virus. 

There still has not been any indication of transmission from animal to human. Animal to animal transmission has only been documented in laboratory settings that do not reflect real-life situations.  

Recommendations for pet owners have largely remained the same: 

  • Wash your hands before and after handling your pet. 
  • Avoid close contact and activities like kissing, hugging, or sharing food with your pet, especially if you are not feeling well. 
  • Try to keep your pets inside and prevent them from interacting with other people and pets outside of the family. 
  • Maintain social distancing for you and your pet when on walks, keeping leash length less than six feet.
  • Keep yourself safe and healthy.  
  • COVID testing for pets is still not recommended unless under special circumstances. If your animal begins to exhibit signs of respiratory illness, call your personal veterinarian for further testing and treatment options.
  • Have plans in place for someone to care for your pet if you are unable to care for them. Keeping your pet at home with you is always going to be the best option, limiting contact if you become sick, but if you become too ill to continue care for your animal make sure you have several plans in place for the continued care of your animal by family or friends. If this is not an option for you, there are some boarding facilities that will accept animals from COVID positive homes. Make sure you have plenty of food, especially if your pet is on a special diet, and any medications or additional supplies your pet may need readily available. 
  • Resources surrounding where you can find boarding facilities, pet supplies, and other relevant information can be found here..  

In summary, although we are seeing a very small number of sporadic occurrences of animals testing COVID-positive, even from homes of COVID-positive owners, only a couple of those have shown signs of illness and that has been in cats. There still have not been any reports of transmission to humans from animals. The illness that is being seen in animals seems to be relatively mild.  

We will continue to keep you up to date on any information that may affect you and your pets as information develops.

The Humane Rescue Alliance is urging the community to have an emergency preparedness plan in place for your pets and to complete a pet information sheet in the wake of COVID-19.


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