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Posted On: 15 March 2020 05:46 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 09:11 am

Worried that your pets can get COVID-19? Here's why you shouldn't!

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Recently, there have been reports of pets being abandoned in Qatar over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fears. One report is from Qatar Animal Welfare Society who mentioned an increase of pets being left outside their gates over the past days. Sadly, this type of situation is happening all over the world especially after a dog of a COVID-19 positive patient in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for the novel coronavirus and was kept in quarantine. The dog did not show any symptoms related to COVID-19 and is in good health.

[UPDATE March18] The dog was released from quarantine after producing negative results. However, days after being released from quarantine, the dog has died and its owner declined to do an autopsy. Its owner has also recovered from coronavirus. (Bloomberg)

Can pets get coronavirus?

Before we answer that, you must remember that 'coronavirus' are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), according to the World Health Organization. The new coronavirus causing COVID-19 disease is part of the coronavirus family.

Dogs can get sick from canine coronavirus disease known as CCoV. The virus is from the Coronaviridae family and causes gastrointestinal problems in dogs. It does not affect people and is NOT the same as the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 in humans.

Cats can get feline coronavirus and feline infectious peritonitis. These do not affect other animals or people.

So back to COVID-19.

Can pets contract COVID-19?

COVID-19 is transmitted from human to human. While the dog testing "weak positive" has been the only case so far, the WHO reiterates that at present, there is no sufficient evidence yet that pets (dogs or cats) can be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has also said that "There is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they can become sick. According to a post from CNN, "Experts, including those from the World Organization for Animal Health, unanimously agreed that it was likely a case of human-to-animal transmission."

In a report from the World Organisation for Animal Health, "There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the COVID-19 virus. The OIE will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. There is no evidence to support restrictions to movement or trade of companion animals."

In a Facebook post, the Hong Kong SPCA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) advised that "Members of the public are advised to differentiate that ‘being infected’ does not equal being infectious and capable of spreading the COVID-19 virus. We wish to remind the public that there is no evidence that companion animals can transmit the disease to humans."

Pets are worth keeping

First off, do NOT abandon or kill your pets! They are family too and until there is conclusive evidence that they can be infected or infectious with the COVID-19, do not place masks on them as this could lead to breathing problems.

Instead, practice good hygiene which includes washing your hands after touching pets, their food, and things (toys, bed, etc), and don't let them kiss you or lick you in the face. Cleaning them after walks outside is also a good practice.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois has also mentioned that "animals living with sick individuals should be kept away from other people and animals (quarantined at home), just as people who live with sick individuals must avoid contact with others."

There are a lot of reasons why you need to keep your pets. One of them is helping you relieve off the stress that this coronavirus outbreak brings. So go ahead and play with your pets, but don't forget basic hygiene!