Photo courtesy Vadim Ghirda ( AP ).
It may not be as safe to cuddle your pet during the pandemic than you think. This week's research suggests that humans transmit covid-19 to their four-legged companions, but pets don't seem to be able to spread the virus to humans. Although most coronavirus infections are mild to non-symptomatic, it is worth being cautious for pet owners who have been infected.
There have been numerous reports that animals have contracted the virus covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. All known cases of covid-19 infection include cats, dogs, and large-sized cats. Also, members of the weasel clan, such as minks or otters have been infected. With the exception of the minks, most of these cases were thought to have been less severe than the usual illness that humans can get. It is unlikely that they could be the source of further transmission.
Most of the research into animals getting covid-19 has been done in isolation or limited to laboratory experiments. This preliminary research was presented at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. It is the first to quantify how often such cases occur.
Els Broens, a Utrecht University veterinarian, took charge of a mobile clinic to visit the homes of 200 people who had been diagnosed with the virus. They then tested the dogs and cats for active coronavirus infection, as well as antibodies that could indicate past exposure. The tests were performed on 156 dogs as well as 154 cats.
The active infection was found in 4.2% and 17% of the animals. The pets did not show any symptoms after being infected. Researchers also found no evidence that these infections spread from pets to humans, suggesting that humans are almost certainly the source of these small-scale outbreaks.
Scientists believe the coronavirus originated in animals and crossed to humans. Minks may have also passed the virus to humans when there was an outbreak at mink farms. However, covid-19 transmission from pet to human has not been confirmed.
Broens said that about one in five pets will contract the disease from their owners. The disease is not fatal for the animals.
To confirm their findings, international research is a possibility. Broens and her coworkers believe that these animals pose a low risk, but pet owners should still be cautious with their pets if they suspect they have caught covid 19. Unfortunately, this caution is also applicable to bedtime.
She said that many pet owners have close contact with their pets, as if they are sleeping in the same bed as their pets. This allows for transmission to take place.