In the wake of the news about a dog from Hong Kong possibly having COVID-19, Dr. Dodds and Hemopet have received many emails asking us if our companion pets are safe. Since then, follow up confirmatory testing on this dog was negative, as predicted.
In times of crisis like this, we beg you to listen to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) regarding companion pets and COVID-19.
Please see the excerpts below from the OIE, AVMA and WSAVA. To review the full statements, please click on the links in the headers below.
OIE Statement as of March 14, 2020
What do we know about COVID-19 virus and companion animals?
The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.
The Veterinary Services of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China reported to OIE evidence that a dog had tested positive to the COVID-19 virus following close exposure to its owners who were sick with COVID-19 – see Immediate Notification (01/03/2020) and Follow-up report no.1 (09/03/2020). The test, conducted by real time PCR, showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, but the dog was not showing and has not shown any clinical signs of the disease.
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 might be affected by 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.
What precautionary measures should be taken by owners when companion or other animals have close contact with humans sick or suspected with COVID-19?
There have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease. However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (known as zoonotic diseases), it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with other people and companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.
When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing, preferably with hot soapy water, before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.
When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a properly fitted face mask whenever possible.
AVMA as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Q: Can SARS-CoV-2 infect pets?
A: Currently, there is no evidence that pets can become sick. Infectious disease experts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people. More investigation is underway and as we learn more, we will update you.
However, because animals can spread other diseases to people and people can also spread diseases to animals, it’s a good idea to always wash your hands as indicated above before and after interacting with animals.
AVMA on Veterinary Medications
Potential supply chain effects
The COVID-19 outbreak has raised concern about potential medical supply issues, including both pharmaceuticals and medical products such as personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, gowns) and surgical drapes. No current shortages are reported by any of the 32 animal drug companies that make finished drugs or source active pharmaceutical ingredients in China for the U.S. market, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, six of the firms have indicated that they see supply chain disruptions that soon could lead to shortages.
Canine Coronavirus Vaccine – Would it help?
No. No. No.
From the WSAVA Statement on March 7, 2020:
Should veterinarians start to vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirus because of the risk of SARSCov-2?
The canine coronavirus vaccines available in some global markets are intended to protect against enteric coronavirus infection and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in the dog. [Information from the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group].
Coronaviruses are zoonotic – meaning they jump between species. Scientists are currently racing to find out the animal origin of the novel COVID-19 disease in humans, that is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first we heard was from two species of snakes, the Bungarus multicinctus (the many-banded krait) and Naja atra (the Chinese cobra). This was doubted by virologists around the globe. Virologist Paulo Eduardo Brandão – who has been specifically researching whether or not snakes can become infected with coronaviruses – simply said there is no supportive evidence to date.
In mid-February, we heard that ant-eating pangolins smuggled into China might be the origin. While these animals are considered better contenders as the source by some researchers, the whole genetic match between the coronavirus circulating within the pangolin population is not close enough to that in the human population.
Thus far, the closest match identified came from bats, but the evidence suggests that an intermediate source between the bat and the human is needed. Indeed, research suggests that Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has an intermediate source in camels. The 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak is believed to be bat to civet cat to human transmission.
Clearly, this is a rapidly evolving situation. The best thing to do is keep calm.
We all play a role in personal and community safety. The best approach is to prepare, but not to panic as it raises stress levels that contribute to a reduction in immune function. A healthy immune system is key to recovery against COVID-19.
For a simple and detailed guideline that includes even tips on how to dilute bleach to clean surfaces, please visit the CDC’s page “How to Protect Yourself”.
In the meantime, Hemopet will keep you up-to-date on the latest information regarding companion pets as information about this virus becomes available and verified.
Brulliard, Karin. “Dog with ‘Low-Level’ Coronavirus Infection Remains Quarantined after Blood Test, Hong Kong Officials Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Mar. 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/03/13/dogs-pets-coronavirus/.
Callaway, Ewen, and David Cyranoski. “Why Snakes Probably Aren’t Spreading the New China Virus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 Jan. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00180-8.
Coronavirus. World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.
Cyranoski, David. “Mystery Deepens over Animal Source of Coronavirus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 26 Feb. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00548-w.
Dodds, Jean. “How Does Stress Affect a Dog’s Long-Term Health?” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 9 Mar. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/does-stress-affect-a-dog-long-term-health/.
Dodds, Jean. “The Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets.” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 26 Jan. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-companion-pets-2019-ncov/.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). World Health Organization, 11 Mar. 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-(mers-cov).
SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). World Health Organization, 26 Apr. 2012, https://www.who.int/ith/diseases/sars/en/.