Can pets transmit the virus?

A veterinary expert solves all doubts about the disease and pets

The Veterinary Clinical Hospital of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), one of the most prestigious in Europe, considers that to date there is no scientific evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid- 19, can affect animals company or that they can transmit the disease.

The UAB veterinary hospital is receiving numerous inquiries these days from cat and dog owners to inquire about the veracity of some information that has indicated that pets could contract and transmit the disease.

The veterinarian at this hospital Xavier Roura has answered the most frequent questions he receives.

What do we know about the virus and pets?

COVID-19 (abbreviation Coronavirus Disease 2019) is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a new beta-coronavirus that was identified in December 2019 after a series of pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and the that the initial source of contagion is still unknown. From the initial focus, the current expansion of COVID-19 is caused by human-to-human transmission. So far there is no evidence that companion animals can suffer from or transmit the disease.

Is there a vaccine for dogs and cats?

Cats and dogs (and ferrets too) can be affected by coronavirus. In general, these are alpha-coronaviruses (a different genus from the beta-coronavirus to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs) that usually cause digestive symptoms. There are vaccines for canine enteric coronavirus (which causes a digestive condition) and for feline coronavirus that causes feline infectious peritonitis, a potentially very serious disease. In any case, none of these vaccines would protect against the virus that is causing the current outbreak. of COVID-19 and there is no point in vaccinating cats and dogs to protect them from this disease. With regard to vaccination against typical cat and dog coronaviruses, your veterinarian will inform you if it is indicated in your pet and how the vaccination should be done.

If I am positive, do I have to avoid contact with my pet?

Although at the moment it has not been proven that companion animals can suffer from the disease, we still have a lot to know about the new coronavirus and, as a pure precaution, it is recommended that people positive for Covid-19 disease limit contact with pets in the same way that they do with people. If you are positive for SARS-CoV-2, have another family member take care of the pet whenever possible and avoid contact with it (petting, kissing, licking, sharing food). If you must have contact with a pet, wash your hands before and after interacting and wear a face mask.

My dog ​​has been in contact with an infected dog, do I have to take him to the vet?

If your pet has been in contact with a Covid-19 positive person and you must take them to the vet for any reason, contact the vet center by phone first. In this way, they will give you the precise instructions and will be able to be prepared to receive them.

Infected dog in China

This is not exactly like this. Although a sample taken from a dog that lived with a person who was positive for SARS-CoV-2 has given a slight positive, the animal does not show any signs of disease and it has not been possible to verify whether it is indeed a carrier of viral particles with infective capacity. On February 26, a mild positive result was reported in a detection test carried out on the dog of a person suffering from Covid-19 in Hong Kong.

Nasal, oral, fecal, and rectal samples were analyzed. In the first analysis, the nasal and oral samples were positive. In a second analysis, only the nasal samples were positive. The last two tests were negative in all samples. The test used is real-time RT-PCR ( real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction), which detects viral RNA but cannot distinguish whether there are intact viral particles (which are infectious) or only fragments of RNA (which do not transmit disease). It is also possible that the animal simply acted as fomes (it had viral particles by contact with the positive patient, just as any other object with which the patient had been in contact could have them).

The dog in question was returned to its owner after completing the quarantine without showing signs of illness at any time. Thus, as of today, it can continue to be stated that there are no known cases of pets affected by Covid-19 disease and no case of transmission of the disease from pets to people has been described at the moment