There are “substantial” rates of coronavirus infection in dogs and cats whoseowners have COVID-19, new research shows.

The researchers also found that, in several cases, infected pets had COVID-like respiratory symptoms at the time their owners were infected.

SARS-CoV-2 has been reported to infect a number of animals, but the risks,susceptibility and symptoms in different species have been unclear.

To learn more, Canadian researchers swabbed the noses, throats and rectums of17 cats, 18 dogs and one ferret. To determine current infection, the animalswere tested within two weeks of a confirmed coronavirus infection or COVID-19symptoms in their owners.

Blood samples also were taken from eight cats and 10 dogs whose owners wereoutside the two-week window of infectiousness. This was to determine recent orpast infection.

All of the tests for current infection were negative, but coronavirusantibodies were found in the blood of all eight cats, indicating pastinfection.

Owners reported that all eight cats had respiratory and/or other illnessesaround the time of their own infection.

The findings are to be presented at the online European Society of ClinicalMicrobiology and Infectious Disease (ESCMID) Conference on CoronavirusDisease, Sept. 23 to 25. Research presented at meetings should be consideredpreliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Two (20%) of the dogs had coronavirus antibodies in their blood, indicatingpast infection. One had respiratory symptoms, the researchers noted.

“These preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets inhouseholds of persons with COVID-19 become infected,” said study co-author Dr.Dorothee Bienzle, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University ofGuelph in Ontario, Canada.

“Due to the narrow window of time available to detect a current infection inpets, especially if their owner is still sick and isolating, blood testing theanimal at a later time to check for previous infection is preferable forassessment of human-to-animal transmission,” she said in a ESCMID newsrelease.

Bienzle pointed out that animal-to-human transmission of the virus has beenreported on mink farms with a high proportion of infected animals maintainedin close quarters and cared for by humans.

“Transmission from pets to humans has not been reported, but since the viruschanges minimally or not at all after transmission from humans to animals,such reverse transmission may occur,” she added.

The upshot: People with COVID-19 infection should keep away from their pets.

“There is sufficient evidence from multiple studies, including ours, torecommend that SARS-CoV-2 infected persons should isolate from people andanimals,” Bienzle said.

More information

The American Veterinary Medical Association has more on the new coronavirusand pets.

SOURCE: European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, newsrelease, Sept. 17, 2020

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