These scientists are taking the expression “sick as a dog” to a new level.
A new study has found that a surprisingly high number of dogs and cats may be getting infected with COVID-19. These high infection rates may be attributed in part to the affection owners have for their cats and dogs, according to new research to be presented next week at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
Scientists at the University of Utrecht sent a mobile veterinary clinic to households in the Netherlands that had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 200 days, Reuters reported.
The team, led by Dr. Els Broens, tested 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households in homes where humans had been infected with the coronavirus.
“About one out of five pets will catch the disease from their owners,” Broens told Reuters, adding that the infected animals recovered quickly and did not pass COVID-19 on to other pets in the same household.
They discovered 31 cats and 23 dogs — about 17% of the animals — had antibodies for COVID-19. This suggests that they had also been infected along with their owners. Six cats and seven dogs had an active infection when they returned a positive PCR result.
“A lot of the pet owners are in very close contact, like they sleep with their animals in their bed, so you can imagine that there’s close contact, so that transmission can take place,” Broens said.
However, there no known cases of pet-to-human transmission, although it would have been difficult to detect while the virus spread easily between humans, researchers reported.
“If you have COVID, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people,” Broens told BBC. “The main concern is not the animals’ health but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.”
It is still unclear, though, if infected animals can transmit the virus to their human owners — especially when coronaviruses typically stem from animal-to-human encounters.
COVID-19 is thought to have originated in an undetermined bat species. Since the first months of the pandemic, researchers found that non-human mammals can be infected, but few ultimately become seriously ill.
A separate study done at the University of Guelph in Ontario in June found that cats and dogs who slept on their owner’s bed were at particular risk of infection. About 67% of cats and 43% of dogs who lived in the households tested positive for antibodies — compared with 9% of dogs and cats from an animal shelter and 3% of stray cats. A quarter of the pets had symptoms ranging from difficulty breathing to sluggishness to loss of appetite.
The study’s authors suggested that cats may have a higher risk of infection because of their biology and the fact that cats are more likely to sleep near their owner’s face than dogs.
And back in November 2020, researchers from the University of Granada found that dog owners who walk their pooches are 78% more likely to come down with COVID-19, a new study claims.
In May, scientists also reportedly discovered a new variant of coronavirus that is believed to have originated in dogs — potentially the eighth unique form of the virus known to cause disease in humans.
Vets in Russia have even started distributing vaccines to some animals against COVID-19. However, according to Broens, there is no scientific evidence for vaccinating animals right now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is “considered to be low,” but if a person inside the household becomes sick, “isolate that person from everyone else, including pets and other animals.”
The CDC also advises pet owners to not put masks on pets since they could do harm to them. Owners should also not wipe or bathe pets with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide since there is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from pet skin, fur, or hair.
“In the United States, there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people,” CDC authors note.
Credit: Source link