The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

Coronavirus: What you need to know if you have pets

Wednesday, 8 April 2020, 11:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

Currently, there is no evidence that animals (pets or livestock) can transmit novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) to humans. According to the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health), the main route of transmission of COVID-19 is from human to human.

Can people infect their pets/livestock with COVID-19?

On the date of issuing this press release, there have been 3 confirmed animals that have tested positive for novel coronavirus by swab tests.

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The first were two dogs in Hong Kong that resulted in positive swab tests. These dogs never showed any clinical signs.

One cat in Belgium belonging to a person infected with the virus did show clinical signs (vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing and shallow breathing). This cat’s swabs were taken by the owner and so the positive result was potentially due to environmental contamination - infection of the cat has not been confirmed in this case.

There have also been two anecdotal reports of a tiger kept in a zoo in New York which tested positive for COVID-19. This tiger and the other tigers at this zoo were showing clinical signs - but this has still not been confirmed by the OIE.

Studies are still taking place in order to better understand how animals can become infected by COVID-19.

Laboratories have tested many cats and dogs in the United States and South Korea and all have tested negative so far with the exception of the cases mentioned above.

So far, animals have tested positive only when they have been in close contact with infected humans.

For this reason if you are feeling unwell, please avoid close contact with your pets and other animals. Always practise good hand hygiene when handling pets and their food as suggested by the Superintendent of Public Health.

Animals belonging to people in quarantine or infected with COVID-19 should be kept indoors, as although the animals might not be infected with COVID-19, the virus itself might be present on the animals’ coat.

Can pets/livestock infect humans with COVID-19?

The main route of transmission remains human to human. There is no evidence that pets or livestock transmit the virus to people. However it is possible for animals to act as fomites (objects or materials that can carry infection on their surface like a mobile phone or a door handle) so contact with people who do not live in the same household should also be avoided. (There is no reason to believe that animals are involved in the spread of this disease between humans.) It is important to practise good hand hygiene if handling someone else’s animals.

Can I test my pet for COVID-19?

At the moment there are no commercial tests available for animals and the tests being used in Malta are being reserved for humans to be tested.

Additionally, since the main mode of transmission of the virus is from human to human, leading health authorities around the world do not recommend testing pets for COVID-19.

If your pet shows any respiratory signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, unwell) then contact your veterinarian, explain your concerns and he/she will be able to guide you or test for more common pet respiratory infections.

Always inform your veterinarian if you are in quarantine, feeling unwell or have tested positive for COVID-19 before the pet is taken to a clinic, in order to limit the spread of the virus.

This is a developing situation and studies are continually taking place to understand the COVID-19 infection and the impact it has on us and our animals.

The statement was issued by the Malta Veterinary Association

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