Can COVID-19 affect dogs and cats?
Let me right at the outset state that it is not my intention to create any scare among pet owners and veterinarians but I consider the following information to be quite significant:
1. On 26 March 2020, Promed reported that the Veterinary Services of Hong Kong had confirmed infection with COVID 19 virus in a Pomeranian dog belonging to a COVID 19 positive patient. Subsequently, tests carried out on 17 dogs and 8 cats revealed that 2 dogs tested positive to the virus.
2. On 27 March 2020, Promed reported that the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Liege, Belgium had reported a case of a coronavirus infection in a cat whose owner had been infected with COVID-19.
3. On 03 April 2020, The Chief Veterinary Officer of Hong Kong informed the World Organisation for Animal health (OIE) of a possible human-to-animal transmission after a cat was found infected with COVID-19 following hospitalization of its owner due to COVID-19 one week earlier. Hong Kong therefore decided to place under quarantine mammalian pets from households with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
These cases, although rare, raise serious doubts about the possibility of COVID-19 developing into an emerging zoonosis. More studies are under way to better understand the susceptibility of different animal species to COVID-19. There is so far no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare, the more so that animal to human transmission of COVID 19 is not proven.
However, and as precautionary measures and until more is known about this infection in animals, it is recommended that:
a) that COVID-19 infected people avoid contact with companion animals;
b) basic hygiene measures including hand washing before and after handling animals, their food, or supplies be strictly observed;
c) pet owners avoid kissing their pets;
d) wherever facilities exist, National Public Health and Veterinary Services work together under the “One Health” concept to conduct risk assessments and to develop appropriate tests to detect the infection in animals. It is noted that RT-PCR tests can be applied to test oral, nasal and faecal/rectal samples for the virus in animals.
e) animals from COVID-19 positive owners be quarantined.
Mauritius being severely deficient in veterinary infrastructure and other facilities, It is now more than ever necessary for the Government of Mauritius to upgrade the Veterinary Services of Mauritius in accordance with the recommendations of the OIE particularly in terms of the diagnostic services provided by the Animal Health Laboratory