COVID-19 virus is a common source of conversation, social media posts, and news articles. As this virus rears its ugly head in Australia, and across the globe, you may be wondering about its impact on your bond with your pets. At Midwest Vet Centre, we want to set the record straight, and help you separate fact from fiction.

Fiction: Dogs get sick from COVID-19 virus, and may spread the virus to humans.

In Hong Kong, a dog who was in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient tested weak positive for the virus on several occasions, based on nose and mouth swabs, but later tested negative on a blood test. The dog showed no clinical signs while quarantined, indicating that dogs are unlikely to become ill from the virus. Also, it is not currently believed that dogs can transmit the virus to people, or other animals.

The U.S. company IDEXX has tested thousands of canine samples for COVID-19, with no positive results, further reinforcing that dogs are unlikely to get, or transmit, the virus. If your pet is showing respiratory signs, you should seek veterinary care, although she is likely suffering from a common pet respiratory problem, rather than the COVID-19 virus. Do not take drastic measures out of fear that she will expose you to COVID-19.

Fact: Cats and dogs have their own strains of coronavirus that cannot infect people. 

In dogs, the two common forms affect the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, causing either self-limiting diarrhea or respiratory illness that is often paired with kennel cough cases. Cats can be affected by the enteric coronavirus form as well, causing mild diarrhea, but feline coronavirus can develop into feline infectious peritonitis in rare cases.

Cats can be infected with an enteric coronavirus that may have two different outcomes:

  • Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV) — Exposed cats may be asymptomatic, or develop gastrointestinal (GI) signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea, that will resolve on their own, with the occasional need for symptomatic treatment, such as anti-nausea medications or supplemental fluids. Death is unlikely.
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) — In cats with this highly fatal condition, the feline coronavirus mutates, and spreads to multiple body organs. The immune reaction to the virus can cause fluid buildup in the chest and abdominal cavity, and inflammation of other organs, including the liver, lungs, kidneys, and pancreas, and ultimately, system failure and death.

Dogs can become infected with an enteric canine coronavirus, which may be asymptomatic, or show mild GI signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Most affected dogs recover uneventfully on their own, or with symptomatic treatment. Canine coronavirus is seldom fatal. Dogs can also be infected with a respiratory form that is often associated with kennel cough cases.

Fact: Pets do not need to be separated from a COVID-19-positive owner.

An owner who is battling COVID-19, and not feeling up to caring for their pet, should enlist the help of a friend or family member for tasks such as walking or feeding. Pets do not need to be removed from the household, however, since pets cannot transmit the disease to people, or become sick themselves. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommends always washing your hands well before and after handling your pet, her food, or her dishes, and avoiding close contact, such as kissing, snuggling, or sleeping in the same bed, but this is especially important if the owner is sick, or quarantined. 

We know these are scary times as we wait to see COVID-19’s full impact, and to discover more about this virus. If you have questions regarding coronavirus and your pets, give our office a call, or consult the AVA website for up-to-date COVID-19 information, as it relates to our furry friends.