COVID-19 and Companion Pets

COVID-19 and Companion Pets

By W. Jean Dodds, DVM on

COVID-19 and Companion Pets

In the wake of the news about a dog from Hong Kong possibly having COVID-19, Dr. Dodds and Hemopet have received many emails asking us if our companion pets are safe. Since then, follow up confirmatory testing on this dog was negative, as predicted.

In times of crisis like this, we beg you to listen to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) regarding companion pets and COVID-19.

Please see the excerpts below from the OIE, AVMA and WSAVA. To review the full statements, please click on the link noted at the bottom of each statements.

OIE Statement as of March 14, 2020

What do we know about COVID-19 virus and companion animals?

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.

The Veterinary Services of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China reported to OIE evidence that a dog had tested positive to the COVID-19 virus following close exposure to its owners who were sick with COVID-19 – see Immediate Notification (01/03/2020) and Follow-up report no.1 (09/03/2020). The test, conducted by real time PCR, showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, but the dog was not showing and has not shown any clinical signs of the disease.

There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals might be affected by COVID-19 virus. The OIE will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

There is no evidence to support restrictions to movement or trade of companion animals.

What precautionary measures should be taken by owners when companion or other animals have close contact with humans sick or suspected with COVID-19?

There have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease. However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (known as zoonotic diseases), it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with other people and companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.

When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing, preferably with hot soapy water, before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.

When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a properly fitted face mask whenever possible.

OIE

AVMA as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Q: Can SARS-CoV-2 infect pets?

A: Currently, there is no evidence that pets can become sick. Infectious disease experts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people. More investigation is underway and as we learn more, we will update you.

However, because animals can spread other diseases to people and people can also spread diseases to animals, it’s a good idea to always wash your hands as indicated above before and after interacting with animals.

AVMA

AVMA on Veterinary Medications

Potential supply chain effects

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised concern about potential medical supply issues, including both pharmaceuticals and medical products such as personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, gowns) and surgical drapes. No current shortages are reported by any of the 32 animal drug companies that make finished drugs or source active pharmaceutical ingredients in China for the U.S. market, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, six of the firms have indicated that they see supply chain disruptions that soon could lead to shortages.

AVMA

Canine Coronavirus Vaccine – Would it help?

No. No. No.

From the WSAVA Statement on March 7, 2020:

Should veterinarians start to vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirus because of the risk of SARSCov-2?

The canine coronavirus vaccines available in some global markets are intended to protect against enteric coronavirus infection and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in the dog. [Information from the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group].

WSAVA

Commentary

Coronaviruses are zoonotic – meaning they jump between species. Scientists are currently racing to find out the animal origin of the novel COVID-19 disease in humans, that is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first we heard was from two species of snakes, the Bungarus multicinctus (the many-banded krait) and Naja atra (the Chinese cobra). This was doubted by virologists around the globe. Virologist Paulo Eduardo Brandão – who has been specifically researching whether or not snakes can become infected with coronaviruses – simply said there is no supportive evidence to date.

In mid-February, we heard that ant-eating pangolins smuggled into China might be the origin. While these animals are considered better contenders as the source by some researchers, the whole genetic match between the coronavirus circulating within the pangolin population is not close enough to that in the human population.

Thus far, the closest match identified came from bats, but the evidence suggests that an intermediate source between the bat and the human is needed. Indeed, research suggests that Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has an intermediate source in camels. The 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak is believed to be bat to civet cat to human transmission.

Clearly, this is a rapidly evolving situation. The best thing to do is keep calm.

Suggestions

We all play a role in personal and community safety. The best approach is to prepare, but not to panic as it raises stress levels that contribute to a reduction in immune function. A healthy immune system is key to recovery against COVID-19.

For a simple and detailed guideline that includes even tips on how to dilute bleach to clean surfaces, please visit the CDC’s page “How to Protect Yourself”.

In the meantime, Hemopet will keep you up-to-date on the latest information regarding companion pets as information about this virus becomes available and verified.

References

Brulliard, Karin. “Dog with ‘Low-Level’ Coronavirus Infection Remains Quarantined after Blood Test, Hong Kong Officials Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Mar. 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/03/13/dogs-pets-coronavirus/.

Callaway, Ewen, and David Cyranoski. “Why Snakes Probably Aren’t Spreading the New China Virus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 Jan. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00180-8.

Coronavirus. World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.

Cyranoski, David. “Mystery Deepens over Animal Source of Coronavirus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 26 Feb. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00548-w.

Dodds, Jean. “How Does Stress Affect a Dog’s Long-Term Health?” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 9 Mar. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/does-stress-affect-a-dog-long-term-health/.

Dodds, Jean. “The Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets.” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 26 Jan. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-companion-pets-2019-ncov/.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). World Health Organization, 11 Mar. 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-(mers-cov).

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). World Health Organization, 26 Apr. 2012, https://www.who.int/ith/diseases/sars/en/.

Shared with permission from W. Jean Dodds, DVM

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Your cat and the flu

Your cat and the flu

Let’s dive into this subject and find the many common myths and misconceptions out there regarding this very subject. We want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what our cats can catch from us and what we can give to them. Because let’s face it, we love to snuggle and stay warm under our cozy blankets when sick. This is an open invite for our cats to want to come and snuggle in with us. But, is it really healthy for us to be snuggling with our four-legged friends? Or could we pass this human flu onto our cat? That is the very thing we want to explore today, Your cat and the flu.

Studies have shown that you cannot catch a cat’s flu. A cat’s flu is not actually caused by the influenza virus but is a viral infection. The flu that humans get is caused by influenza A, B, and C. However, the cat flu is still a virus, meaning that antibiotics will not help treat it. Some people don’t understand the difference between a virus and a bacterial infection. A virus is not treatable by antibiotics.

your cat and the flu

Your cat can catch your flu!

cat, hygene, flu

It is thought that our animals can catch our diseases. In fact, that is why there are so many mutations of a virus. While you are down with the flu, you should avoid the cat as much as you avoid other family and friends. This will help you not spread the virus from you to your cat.

However, there is yet another step that you might consider as well, this is that the cat’s fur could carry the virus to other family members as well. Think about it, when you sneeze or rub your eyes, you could be picking up the virus and potentially putting it on the cat. It is important that you are constantly washing your hands and avoiding contact with your cat. Your cat and the flu are not a good mixture. However, it is hard sometimes to get the cat to understand. Especially if you are an on the go person that is now laying there, basically asking for them to lay on you.

Keep hydrated

Typically, your cat’s flu and your flu have pretty much the same symptoms. For the most part, you will just need to stay in and rest. Be sure stay hydrated and get plenty of fluids and always have fresh water out for your cat as well. To get even more fluids into them, you might moisten their food too. Sometimes the flu can turn into a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or a sinus infection. This typically is followed up by green phlegm in both you and your cat. When looking at your cat and the flu, these are some similarities. If the cat has green phlegm, this is a good indication that you should probably see the vet. Bacterial infections can be taken care of with antibiotics.

Make sure you know who the cat has been in contact with. It may not have been with you. In fact, they may not have had contact with anyone but you. However, we carry germs from the outside in on our clothing and shoes. These germs can reach your cat, but they simply coexist with you. This is not to make you paranoid, but just aware. There are many reasons for a cat to get sick and just because they didn’t seem exposed, they certainly could have been.

american shorthair hydrating

Good Hygiene is important!

cat, hygene, flu

Cat flu comes from other cats. However, that doesn’t mean that your cat has to be exposed to other cats. In fact, like all flu cases, the cat could catch it from being around you. And, some cats that are carriers of the disease have no symptoms at all. This is important to note so you can further understand your cat and the flu. Cats release the flu bug in tears, saliva, nasal secretions and even in their urine. It can survive in most environments for up to a week. Because it is transmitted by saliva, most cats that are sick will have the virus on their fur. Be sure to always wash your hands well before touching another cat. When looking for signs notice there are similarities to spreading the disease. Always wash the hands well and often. And, washing clothing is also important. Good hygiene isn’t just for the vain but it is to keep you and those around you healthy.

To read more about caring for your American Shorthair cat click here.

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The Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets

The Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets

By W. Jean Dodds, DVM on

Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets

The new and novel coronavirus outbreak spreading throughout Wuhan, China – and now internationally due to travelers from there – is prompting Chinese officials to quarantine the city and surrounding areas.

Many of us are wondering why the Chinese Government has literally implemented wartime measures since the overall deaths – while tragic – are relatively low compared to the number of confirmed infections. Even the World Health Organization has not yet declared this new virus a global health emergency.

According to The Washington Post, this particular coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, has an incubation period of up to 14 days. It is also known to be passed on for up to at least 4 generations of viral replication – meaning human to human to human to human contact. So, the government is preparing to not only contain the virus, but also the next big wave of people potentially infected. Indeed, they are building a hospital with 1,000 beds specifically for people infected with 2019-nCoV virus.

What are the symptoms in humans?

This particular strain of coronavirus causes respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases of immunocompromised individuals, infection can provoke a secondary bacterial infection like pneumonia, kidney failure and even death. The secondary bacterial infection appears to be antibiotic resistant.

Pharmaceutical companies are working on a antiviral vaccine.

Where did this all begin?

Huanan Seafood Market has been linked as the possible originating area. This market not only sold seafood, but also sold live exotic animals.

How did this virus start?

Many coronaviruses are known to be zoonotic – meaning they can jump between species. For instance, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a different coronavirus strain and was spread from bats to camels to people simply through their interactions.

For the 2019-nCoV, a recent controversial peer-reviewed research paper found that protein codes in the 2019-nCoV are most similar to those found in snakes. The researchers believe that the virus jumped from bats to snakes to humans.

Other virologists are skeptical of the findings for a variety of reasons according to Nature. Paulo Eduardo Brandão is studying if snakes can carry coronaviruses. He says that at this time there is no evidence yet of other animal hosts beyond mammals and birds. David Robertson thinks it is unlikely that 2019-nCoV has infected any secondary animal host for long enough to alter its genome significantly. Overall, they believe more testing of the Huanan Seafood Market should occur.

What we picked up on is that Huanan Seafood Market also sold bats according to the study, which are considered the original source of many major coronaviruses.

Can companion dogs or cats contract the 2019-nCoV?

The focus of Chinese officials has been on human health and finding the animal source that spread it to humans. So, it is unknown if companion pets there can contract the 2019-nCoV strain from the animal source, could be spreading it to humans, or humans are conveying the virus to them. This last sort of spread is complicated and would take time as the researcher noted above.

Chinese markets sell a variety of exotic animals like civet cats and racoon dogs. Bear in mind, these are not felines or canines, respectively.

Civet cats spread Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to humans. It is believed that SARS jumped possibly from bats to civet cats. [SARS is a different member of the coronavirus family.]

We researched and have not determined if the Huanan Seafood Market sold canines or felines for food consumption.

We will update you if there are any changes regarding the spread of this coronavirus to companion cats and dogs.

Current Known Coronaviruses in Companion Dogs

Current strains are canine respiratory coronavirus, canine enteric coronavirus, and pantropic canine coronavirus.

Canine respiratory coronavirus is a part of the kennel cough complex and is spread in kennel-like situations where dogs have high contact with one another or infected surfaces.

Canine enteric virus causes diarrhea. A vaccine is available for this strain. However, Dr. Dodds, Dr. Ron Schultz, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) do not recommend it. As AAHA succinctly puts it, “Canine coronavirus (CCV) vaccination is not recommended on the grounds that infection: (1) causes mild or subclinical disease, (2) generally occurs in dogs 6 wks of age and younger, and (3) is typically self-limiting.”

The symptoms of canine pantropic coronavirus are lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, hemorrhagic diarrhea, and neurologic signs (ataxia, seizures). This strain appears to have not yet spread beyond Europe. There is no evidence that the canine enteric virus vaccine cross-protects against canine pantropic coronavirus, according to the WSAVA.

Current Known Coronaviruses in Companion Cats

Two coronavirus strains in cats are significant at this time: feline enteric coronavirus and feline infectious peritonitis.

Similar to canine enteric coronavirus, feline enteric coronavirus causes mild diarrhea in cats.

Feline infectious peritonitis is an immune-mediated disease triggered by infection with a feline coronavirus. It can be expressed in one of two ways: a “wet” form or a “dry” form. Both forms include fever that include antibiotic-resistant fever, anorexia, weight loss and lethargy. The wet form is further characterized by accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity and/or the chest cavity.

A vaccine is available against feline infectious peritonitis. However, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Dr. Dodds and Dr. Ron Schultz do not recommend it.

References

Callaway, Ewen, and David Cyranoski. “Why Snakes Probably Aren’t Spreading the New China Virus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 Jan. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00180-8.

Campbell, Charlie. “The West Blames the Wuhan Coronavirus on China’s Love of Eating Wild Animals. The Truth Is More Complex.” Time Magazine, 24 Jan. 2020, https://www.time.com/5770904/wuhan-coronavirus-wild-animals/.

Christensen, Jen, and Meera Senthilingam. “Coronavirus: Should You Be Worried?” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Jan. 2020, https://cnn.it/2vr75mR.

“Coronavirus.” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.

Day, M. J., et al. “WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, vol. 57, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 4–8., doi:10.1111/jsap.12431, https://bit.ly/38KwmGV.

Dodds, Jean. “Coronavirus Vaccine for Dogs.” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 30 July 2017.

Ford, Richard, et al. 2017 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines. American Animal Hospital Association, Oct. 2017, https://bit.ly/3aMkndu.

Ji, Wei, et al. “Homologous Recombination within the Spike Glycoprotein of the Newly Identified Coronavirus May Boost Cross‐Species Transmission from Snake to Human.” Journal of Medical Virology, 22 Jan. 2020, doi:10.1002/jmv.25682, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jmv.25682.

McKay, Betsy. “What We Know About the Wuhan Coronavirus.” The Wall Street Journal, 23 Jan. 2020, https://on.wsj.com/2O1XrNJ.

Scherk, Margie A, et al. “2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, vol. 15, no. 9, 2013, pp. 785–808, doi:10.1177/1098612×13500429, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1098612X13500429.

Scherk, Margie, et al. “Disease Information Fact Sheet” Feline Infectious Peritonitis.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, vol. 15, no.9, 2013, pp. 785–808, doi:10.1177/1098612×13500429, https://bit.ly/30WSnzG.

Sun, Lena, and Anna Fifield. “Chinese Cities Cancel New Year Celebrations, Travel Ban Widens in Effort to Stop Coronavirus Outbreak.” The Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2020, https://wapo.st/3aILVkb.

Dr. W. Jean Dodds, DVM graciously allowed us permission to publish this article.

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