The new Corona Virus (COVID-19) that has been rapidly traveling the globe has been reported in Pennsylvania as infecting a few people. There has also been a report out of Hong Kong that a dog, that was owned by an infected person, tested a weak positive for the virus. This has raised concern among the pet-owning public that their pets may be a reservoir for the virus and potentially spread it. Dr. Bryan Langlois, Medical Director of the Pet Pantry of Lancaster County and Immediate Past-President of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA), states that this is not the case and people should not be alarmed about this finding.
“Right now, there is no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 virus can cause illness in your pets or serve as a mechanism of transmission to other people,” explains Langlois. “They have been able to isolate it in testing one dog in Hong Kong, but that does not really mean anything at this time other than they looked for it, and they found it. There is no evidence it has caused any infection in any dog, cat, or horse at this time. There is also no evidence supporting that it can be spread from these animals to humans. It appears they tested for this more out of scientific curiosity than concern for possible spread. Many times, doctors and scientists find things they do not expect when testing both humans and animals, but they have no clinical significance.”
If your pet does experience signs of sneezing or coughing it is still wise to have them seen by a veterinarian to make sure something else is not going on, Dr. Langlois explains. “These are still signs of a possible infection, just not the new Corona Virus. It is still very important to have your dog or cat seen for these signs to ensure they do not need to receive any treatment for other infections.”
Some pet owners may be aware of dogs, cats, and even horses being able to be infected with Corona Virus. “This is true, says Langlois, but it is not that straight forward. It is true animals can become infected with Corona Virus, but these are different strains of Corona that are unique to these animals. In fact, one form of Corona virus in cats can lead to the disease Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in cats. These are not the same strains of virus as COVID-19 and we want pet owners to understand this.”
Dr. Langlois says research is continually ongoing and the best place to get the most accurate and up-to-date information for the health of your pets regarding COVID-19 is your local veterinarian. “Things have been changing rapidly regarding this new virus and information changes daily. At this time it does not appear to be a cause for concern for pets, and we currently do not feel it will be, but it is always wise to stay abreast of the latest information and not be afraid to reach out to your veterinarian with any questions you may have. It still remains, of course, that good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing, especially after playing with dogs and cats or cleaning up after them, are the best defense against any infection.”
Pet owners looking for more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the health of their pets can visit the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
The Animal Rescue League of Berks County is encouraging all pet owners in Berks County to make a plan to protect their pets in case they should become infected with COVID-19. With 11 presumptive cases reported in Pennsylvania, and more likely to come, many pet owners may ﬁnd themselves suddenly sick and unable to care for their pets, or forced into quarantine without sufﬁcient pet supplies. “Although we certainly hope that Berks County will not become an area where there’s a COVID-19 outbreak, we would like to remind people who are preparing their families and their homes for a potential quarantine to not forget their pets’ needs,” says Alexis Pagoulatos, executive director of the ARL. “Please take the time now to develop a plan just in the rare case your family and your pets are affected.”
The ARL is encouraging pet owners to do the following:
• Purchase extra food, litter, treats, medicines and any other necessities for your pets just in case you would need to self quarantine.
• Get your pets’ vaccines updated in case your pet would need to be boarded or stay with another family and their pets.
• Identify a family member, neighbor or friend who could care for your pet in case you would need to be hospitalized or would be too ill to care for your pet. Make sure you have a crate or carrier handy to transport your pet if needed.
• If your pet is medicated, make sure your emergency contact has written instructions noting your veterinarian’s name, contact information and dosage instructions.
• Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with his/her name or is microchipped in case he/she gets out and you are too ill to ﬁnd him/her.