By Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT
Senior Consulting Veterinarian, Clinical Toxicology
Pet Poison Helpline
Coronavirus is a type of virus consisting of numerous strains that have been seen in animals including dogs, cats, cattle and chickens. These strains can cause gastrointestinal or respiratory illness, including Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) in cats. Vaccinations have been used to prevent the common companion animal strains for decades.
Coronaviruses have zoonotic potential, meaning they can spread from animals to humans, but are not commonly spread from human to human. With the new 2019-nCoV virus, the original source is still unknown and the ability for this virus to spread from humans to animals has not yet been shown; however, information regarding this outbreak is continuing to evolve. According to the CDC, at this point, there is no evidence to suggest animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading or contracting this infection, including those from China. While this virus seems to have originated from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person but at this time, there is no indication that animals or pets in the United States would be a concern as a source of infection with this new coronavirus.
If you or someone you know is ill and are concerned that it may be due to 2019-nCoV, the CDC recommends that you do not handle pets or other animals while sick. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with 2019-nCoV, several types of coronaviruses can cause illness in animals and spread between animals and people. Until more information becomes available, the CDC recommends avoiding contact with animals if you are potentially ill with 2019 n-CoV and wearing a facemask if you must be around animals or care for a pet.
March 10th, 2020
There are reports of one dog in Hong Kong testing a weak positive whose owner was positive for the virus. This animal has not become ill from the virus, nor have scientists been able to confirm that this was not due to contamination.
March 18th, 2020
Idexx Laboratories, a leader in veterinary diagnostic testing, has recently tested thousands of samples from dogs and cats while validating a veterinary test for Coronavirus. The company found no positive results in the tests on either dogs or cats. Idexx leaders have said that they will make the tests readily available if it becomes clears that it is clinically relevant to begin testing pets.
March 31st, 2020
Recently, a cat in Belgium was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was showing clinical signs. The owner of the cat was also symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19. At this time, it is unknown if the positive result was due to a live or dead virus and further testing is being conducted.
April 6th, 2020
A tiger from the Bronx Zoo has recently tested positive for coronavirus. They believe that the tiger was exposed from an asymptomatic worker. Several other tigers in the same enclosure have developed respiratory signs. All tigers are expected to make a full recovery. At this time, no changes to the CDC’s recommendations for pets has been made.
For the most up to date information regarding coronavirus, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html or the World Health Organization’s website: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus as new information is frequently released.