It may be common for pet owners to transmit COVID-19 to their dogs and cats, according to a new study that will be presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.
As efforts continue to reduce human-to-human transmission of the virus, it is becoming imperative that we understand more about the potential risk posed by animal infections, explained the study authors.
To investigate, a team of experts led by Dr. Els Broens of Utrecht University studied dogs and cats whose owners had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two to 200 days. The researchers collected swabs and blood samples from the pets.
The swabs were used to look for evidence of a current infection, while the blood samples were tested for antibodies, which provide evidence of a past infection.
Overall, 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households were tested. The study revealed that six cats and seven dogs tested positive for COVID-19, and 31 cats and 23 dogs tested positive for antibodies.
Eleven of the owners whose pets tested positive for the virus agreed to a second round of testing one to three weeks later. All of the animals tested positive for antibodies, confirming they had recovered from COVID-19.
When the researchers tested eight cats and dogs who lived with animals who had initially showed positive COVID-19 results, they all turned out to be negative this suggests that the pets are not passing the virus along to each other.
The researchers noted that with other studies showing COVID-19 rates to be higher in pets that have been in contact with people with the virus, than in pets without such contact, the most likely route of transmission is from human to pet, rather than the other way round.
Dr Broens adds:
“If you have COVID-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people,” said Dr. Broens. “The main concern, however, is not the animals’ health – they had no or mild symptoms of COVID-19 – but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.”
“Fortunately, to date no pet-to-human transmission has been reported. So, despite the rather high prevalence among pets from COVID-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic.”
The research will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID).
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer