Novel Corona virus or SARS-CoV-2 has 96% identity to coronavirus found in bats. When COVID-19 endemic started in the Wuhan City of China, it was considered as a zoonotic disease that spreads from animals to human beings. Not until few weeks later, it was recognized that this virus can spread from humans to humans.
As COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe several questions were raised if infected humans can transmit the disease to pet animals or vice versa. There are also questions if an infected pet can transmit the disease to another pet.
It was reported in The Veterinary Record that a 17-year-old Pomeranian dog was infected from a confirmed COVID-19 affected pet owner. Several samples were tested from the mouth, nose, and rectum of the dog. The standard RT-PCR COVID-19 test was performed on these tests. The samples were tested weakly positive. However, further viral cultures and antibody tests were all negative. These test results indicate that the virus was unable to grow inside the body of the dog. They also suggest that the dog was never contagious to other pets or human beings.
This report assured the pet owners that COVID-19 infection is not seen in pets and they may not spread the virus to human beings. Several pet advocates rallied that pets should not be abandoned as there is no risk of COVID-19 from pets.
On April 8, 2020, a study published in the journal Science, found that ferrets and cats are highly susceptible to Novel Coronavirus. They also reported that dogs have low susceptibility. Other livestock including pigs, chickens, and ducks are not susceptible to the virus. The study also found that Novel Coronavirus spread from infected cats to healthy cats through droplets.
In the above study, SARS-CoV-2 virus was introduced through nose into cats and ferrets. After the animals were euthanized, samples were collected from different organs in the body. Virus was found to be in the upper respiratory tract and GI tract of ferrets and cats.
Based on this study, it may be possible that cats and ferrets may get infected if they are in close contact with human beings. While this study proved that infection spread from infected cats to healthy cats, it is not clear if the infection can spread from these infected cats to human beings.
In summary, it is advisable to keep cats and other pets away when a person has COVID-19 infection. Pets should be closely monitored for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they are in close contact with individual affected by COVID-19.
Almendros A. Can companion animals become infected with Covid-19? Vet Rec. 2020 Mar 28;186(12):388-389. doi: 10.1136/vr.m1194.