What we know about COVID-19 is constantly changing, with new information in news reports and Facebook feeds constantly vying for attention. As pet owners, we all share a concern for keeping our pets healthy and also staying healthy ourselves. As of this writing, the newest headline was of a German Shepherd from New York State testing positive for COVID. This dog is being touted as the first dog in the U.S. with the disease. But wait, you may say if you have been paying attention, what about that Pug in North Carolina that tested positive in May? Well, that dog was tested through a Duke University surveillance program. As it turns out, the results of that dog’s tests were inconclusive. A follow-up test for the virus was negative and the dog never developed antibodies. This new case is in a dog with positive virus tests and positive antibody tests.
So how worried should you be? Put it into perspective – the two major U.S. veterinary laboratories have been conducting virus surveillance studies on samples sent in for other testing since February. We are talking about more than 8,000 samples. So far, only one dog and two cats have tested positive for COVID. These samples have been from all over the country, including hot spots like Seattle and New York. So the chances of our pets contracting the disease are quite small, but not zero.
We know that animals can contract the disease from us. Two of the positive animals in the surveillance study lived in households with sick family members. And we all remember the tigers at the Bronx Zoo, who contracted the disease from a pre-symptomatic caretaker. The important thing to remember is that these animals were the exception, and all had only mild disease and all recovered. So the next question is can we get COVID from our pets? As of this writing, there have been no cases (world-wide) where humans have contracted COVID from a household pet. This disease is being driven by human to human transmission through respiratory droplets. Could animals carry the virus to you on their fur? There have been extensive studies on what surfaces allow the virus to live on them. Non-porous surfaces (like stainless steel) allow the virus to persist for days if not cleaned. Porous surfaces like clothing and cardboard have been shown to be less hospitable for viruses. Pet fur is quite porous so it is unlikely to transmit the virus based on what we know. The USDA considers the risk of pets spreading the disease to people to be low.
The best advice is if you are ill, then social distancing rules extend to your pets as well. Ask another family member to care for your pet to avoid contaminating them with the virus. If it is not possible, then treat your pet as possibly infected, meaning they should be quarantined with you. Cats should stay indoors and dogs should be kept on a leash.
Should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us by phone at 845-876-6008, or by e-mail at [email protected].
Thank you for choosing us to be part of your pet's healthcare team!
With warmest regards,
Your friends at Rhinebeck Animal Hospital