Vets and animal welfare groups are urging people to not abandon or euthanise their pets over coronavirus fears.
Vets and animal welfare groups are urging people to not abandon or euthanise their pets over coronavirus fears.

Pets and coronavirus: What you need to know

VETS and animal welfare groups are urging people to not abandon or euthanise their pets over novel coronavirus fears.

Australian Veterinary Association President Julia Crawford said although there had been no-known cases of any pet owner having their dog or cat put down due to the virus, some pet owners had become anxious after reading about a Pomeranian who contracted a "low level" of COVID-19 from her elderly owner in Hong Kong in February, despite the dog not showing any signs of infection.

"The virus is spread from human to human, there is absolutely no evidence pets can spread the disease," she said.

Dr Crawford, 63, said the fears could have partly been created because of news about the Pomeranian, although additional COVID-19 tests performed on the dog all came up negative.

Brisbane veterinarian Dr Kate Bruce. Picture: Kate Bruce
Brisbane veterinarian Dr Kate Bruce. Picture: Kate Bruce

The 17-year-old dog was released from quarantine on March 14, but the dog's owner told the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department that it died on March 16.

Dr Crawford said there was an animal version of the coronavirus, but it had been around for years.

"It has never spread to people in the 40 years I have been a vet," she said.

Brisbane veterinarian Kate Bruce tried to assuage any fears cat and dog owners should any of their pets be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

In a post to her 27,000 followers on her @kate.the.vet Instagram page, the Small Animal Veterinarian said there was no reason to be alarmed should a pet be diagnosed with coronavirus.

"Coronaviruses (yes, plural, there are MANY different forms) have been around long before the current type 'COVID-19' hit headlines (sic)" she wrote.

"Both dogs and cats can contract species-specific types of coronavirus, with individuals typically developing mild diarrhoea symptoms, and cats potentially developing the more serious disease, Feline Infectious Peritonitis.

Brisbane veterinarian Kate Bruce at work. She said canine and feline coronavirus was a separate strain to COVID-19 and pet owners should not worry. Picture: Kate Bruce
Brisbane veterinarian Kate Bruce at work. She said canine and feline coronavirus was a separate strain to COVID-19 and pet owners should not worry. Picture: Kate Bruce

"The majority of dog and cat coronavirus cases self-resolve. These are viruses that vets have seen and managed for years."

Dr Bruce, 27, said both canine coronavirus and feline coronavirus had no relation to the new human strain dubbed COVID-19 that was recently discovered in China.

"At this stage, there is no evidence that cats and dogs can become sick with, or spread COVID-19," she said.

This was despite a Pomeranian in Hong Kong returning a "weak positive" result for COVID-19 on February 26.

 

 

It is believed the Pomeranian contracted it from its 60-year-old owner in what is believed to be the first known human-to-animal transmission, according to health officials in Hong Kong.

Dr Bruce said that dog was still subject to further testing, but there was no suspicion that dogs can infect people.

Canine Coronavirus disease is a contagious intestinal infection in dogs and puppies and is part of the Coronaviridae family.

Dr Bruce told The Courier-Mail she decided to write the post after reading other posts where a number of people asked if they should euthanize their dogs or cats because of the virus.

"Then mum said she saw a post about greyhounds infected with canine coronavirus," she said.

"There is a coronavirus contracted by dogs and cats but it's species specific.

 

 

"In dogs, in particular, it usually causes mild diarrhoea. Sometimes they can be infected without showing symptoms."

Dr Bruce said vets usually come across the virus in dogs or cats that have spent time in boarding kennels, pounds or with felines, come from multi-cat households.

"In cats, the coronavirus can sometimes mutate to a virus called Feline Infectious Peritonitis or FIP.

"FIP is particularly nasty and kills most infected cats."

 

Brisbane veterinarian Dr Kate Bruce. Picture: Kate Bruce
Brisbane veterinarian Dr Kate Bruce. Picture: Kate Bruce

 

Dr Bruce emphasised canine and feline coronavirus had been around for years, and was a different strain from the COVID-19.

She said hundreds of diarrhoea samples from sick dogs were tested every year, with about one quarter of them coming back positive for coronavirus.

"With feline coronavirus, between eighty to ninety per cent of cats in multi-cat households will show positive at some point," Dr Bruce said.

Canine coronavirus has been detected in five to 18 per cent of dogs with diarrhoea, according to the Veterinary Information Network.

 

Source - World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media

 

Dr Bruce said infected or concerned pet owners should quarantine their dog or cat should they contract the animal version of coronavirus.

"There is absolutely no risk of transmission to people," she said.

She said cats could not spread it to dogs and vice versa.

"It's spread by the faecal-oral route … and they can shed the virus for a couple of weeks after being infected," Dr Bruce said.

"There is no specific treatment for it. If an animal shows symptoms, isolate them to stop it from spreading."

Originally published as Pets and coronavirus: What you need to know


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