Warning: Man’s best friend might now be man’s (and woman’s) newest worry.
The evidence is growing that it’s not just mink that can spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes potentially deadly COVID-19. Dog and cats and other animals are now being identified as carriers.
The risk of mink is already well documented. Two men working at mink farms in the Netherlands were revealed to have caught COVID-19 from those animals back in May. The Dutch parliament later decided to ban mink farming as dangerous, the NL Times reported.
Almost 600,000 mink were reported to have been gassed to death to eradicate SARS-CoV-2 at fur farms. The kill, which included 480,000 baby mink, was ordered after not only the humans but “several cats had been infected,” the Dutch News reported.
The mink appear now to mark only the beginning of a new SARS-CoV-2 crisis.
The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, has completed a study for presentation next week to the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases conference on coronavirus disease, revealing it has found SARS-CoV-2 in “nose, throat, and rectal swabs from 17 cats, 18 dogs, and 1 ferret owned by people diagnosed as having COVID-19 or reporting symptoms consistent with the coronavirus in the previous two weeks,” CIDRAP revealed.
Whether this is worse news for people or their pets is unclear.
Guelph veterinarian Dorothee Bienzle warned that those who catch COVID-19 could infect their pets. Many of the animals in the Guelph study displayed respiratory systems of the illness.
“There is sufficient evidence from multiple studies, including ours, to recommend that SARS-CoV-2 infected persons should isolate from people and animals,” she said.
The damage the virus can do to pets is unclear. Chinese researchers who reported finding infected cats there said all were asymptomatic, but did have lung abnormalities.
As of this writing, there have been no reports of COVID-19 in dogs or cats in Alaska or in the state’s mink, which are wild not farmed. But here as elsewhere, the evidence would indicate that people who do come down with the disease could spread it to the companion animals.
Whether the situation gets worse or better for humans and pets as the season changes is a subject of considerable speculation. USA Today is warning of “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and the flu. Federal authorities are warning Americans to “hunker down,” given the best way to avoid infectious diseases is to stay away from everyone.
Others are more optimistic. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is at work on a COVID-19 mitigation plan to ensure the famous dog race goes off in March.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now considers the risk of catching COVID-19 from a pet is “low,” but admits a lot remains to be learned about the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
- Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
- Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
- Be aware that children 5 years of age and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and older adults are more likely to get sick from germs some animals can carry.
And, of course, for pets as for people, the best way to avoid catching COVID-19 is to keep them a safe distance away from other people or animals that might carry the disease, meaning there might now be a very good reason for use of the leash.