Coronavirus in Pets – Are They Safe?
The recent outbreak of the new coronavirus strain COVID-19 is creating panic all over the world. With confirmed infections currently at over 100,000 and with deaths reaching above 4,000, it is one of the most talked-about diseases in recent history. As such, there has been a lot of false news and misinformation being spread around, and it only affects humans but our furry friends such as our pet dogs and cats as well.
So what exactly is COVID-19, and can this type of coronavirus spread from human to pet and vice-versa? Here are some confirmed facts that you need to know.
What is COVID-19?
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the province of Wuhan, Hubei Province in China. The virus itself was named by the World Health Organization as 2019-nCoV with the actual disease being named COVID-19. As of March 2020, COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by WHO. This was the first instance that a disease has been declared as such since the swine flu strain H1N1 outbreak over a decade ago.
Currently, COVID-19 has spread to over 100 countries across 6 continents, with China having the most number of reported cases at over 80,000, with Italy trailing behind with over 10,000 cases followed by South Korea and Iran at around 8,000 reported infections each. Both Wuhan and the entire country of Italy have been locked down in order to prevent the disease.
The recent outbreak has also caused mass hysteria as well as panic buying, with supplies of items such as dust masks, alcohol, hand sanitizers, and even toilet paper in some areas quickly becoming scarce due to hoarding.
While the mortality rate of COVID-19 is currently known to be at 3.4%, which is much lower than the death rate of SARS which was at 10%, and MERS-CoV which was at a staggering 34%, it is the high infection rate that has people most worried about. What’s even scarier is that the world is currently fighting a disease that we know very little of and are only just now learning how to fight and control.
Are My Pets Safe from Coronavirus?
Fortunately, there is a silver lining when it comes to COVID-19. There has been no proof that other mammals such as dogs or cats can be infected with the disease. At the very least, there has been no evidence of any harmful effects on animals despite the virus being present within them.
Proof of this is the testing done on a canine that was in contact with an infected person. The dog was tested twice and the results came out as a “weak positive”. However, the animal did not show any signs of infection.
The theory put forth by the World Health Organization is that the dog, which is still under quarantine for health, safety, and security reasons, has been exposed to the infected person for a prolonged period, and the virus eventually found its way up the dog’s nose. There is also no evidence that supports that the virus is active and can cause further infection in humans.
However, your pet dogs or cats are not completely safe from coronavirus, as this encompasses different types of diseases that belong to the family Coronavidae. Some strains of coronavirus affect humans, while others affect dogs and cats. Other strains, particularly gamma and delta coronaviruses, are responsible for certain diseases in non-mammalian creatures.
Coronaviruses for mammals, categorized as either alpha or beta coronaviruses, can affect your pets in different ways. Canine coronavirus can manifest in dogs as diarrhea, loss of appetite, or decreased energy levels.
Canine coronaviruses can be transmitted through fecal matter, direct contact with infected dogs, or by touching infected items such as food bowls, toys, or even humans. While canine coronavirus symptoms typically clear up after one to two weeks, it can be easily mistaken for parvovirus which is a much more severe and life-threatening condition.
Feline coronaviruses, on the other hand, can affect cats in different ways. In some cases, symptoms are minor, non-life threatening, and will clear up without any medication or treatment. More severe diseases may include feline infectious peritonitis and enteritis, among others. Feline, canine, and human coronaviruses cannot cross-infect other species.
How Do I Keep Us Safe?
While you may be tempted to put dust masks on your beloved pets, experts actually do not recommend them. Not only will this not minimize the transmission of COVID-19, but it may also cause undue stress and discomfort to your companion.
Medical experts recommend people stay away from public places during the outbreak and regularly wash their hands using soap and water to prevent the transmission of disease. When going to places with high risks of infection, or if you have a weakened immune system, then wearing masks is advised. You must also avoid touching your face before washing your hands thoroughly, and you must also dispose of used gloves and masks properly.
It is also very important to have a healthy diet in order to keep your immune system in top shape. For homes and offices, proper sanitation using alcohol or soap and water is a must. This is to kill any viruses that may stick to surfaces that you can touch and accidentally get into your body.
In order to prevent pets from inadvertently transmitting viruses to you, as well as to prevent them from contracting other forms of the disease, you should ensure that they have clean and portable dog bowls.
This can be done through frequent regular washing. You should also avoid having your pets interact with other animals that you suspect may have the disease. This would include avoiding any fecal matter or objects that the animal may have touched, licked, or have been in close proximity to.
COVID-19 and other types of coronavirus are a serious concern. However, with a clear head and knowing how to minimize the ways by which the virus can be transmitted, you can very easily keep yourself and your pets safe and free from infection.