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Dogs and cats test positive for alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2

Instances of animals being infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) have bee)n documented from around the world. The species affected include pet dogs, cats and ferrets, zoo animals such as big cats, otters and primates, farmed mink and wild white-tailed deer. 

A new study reports the first instav7thnce of pet infection by the alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in southeast England and is commonly known as the UK variant or B.1.1.7. This variant rapidly outcompeted pre-existing variants in England due to its increased transmissibility and infectivity. 

Two cats and one dog returned positive PCR tests for this variant of the Coronavirus, while two additional cats and one dog displayed antibodies to the virus two to six weeks after they had developed signs of cardiac disease. All of the pets had suffered an acute onset of cardiac disease, including severe myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

Many of the owners of these pets had also tested positive for COVID-19, and had developed respiratory symptoms several weeks before their pets became ill.

“Our study reports the first cases of cats and dogs affected by the COVID-19 alpha variant and highlights, more than ever, the risk that companion animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2,” said lead author Luca Ferasin, DVM, PhD, of The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre, in the UK.

“We also reported the atypical clinical manifestations characterized by severe heart abnormalities, which is a well-recognized complication in people affected by COVID-19 but has never been described in pets before.” 

“However, COVID-19 infection in pets remains a relatively rare condition and, based on our observations, it seems that the transmission occurs from humans to pets, rather than vice versa.”

The study is published by Wiley in the journal Veterinary Record.

By Alison Bosman, Staff Writer

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