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Positive COVID-19 tests in a household required protection for pets

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In households with positive cases of COVID-19, social distancing not only applies to humans, but pets as well. Although pets may be a comfort for individuals feeling sick, experts recommend staying away from them if individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus.

This warning comes as confirmed cases of pets infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, are being reported across the U.S.

 “We need to talk about our pets,” said Dr. Susan Culp, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service veterinarian in the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. “If there is a human diagnosed positive, in addition to isolating from other people, they need to isolate from their pets.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding contact with pets including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food and sleeping in the same bed. If individuals must care for their pet or be around animals while they are sick, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering and washing hands before and after interacting with them.

Positive-testing animals 

On July 7, Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reported the first confirmed animal case in a dog in Tarrant County, Texas. The case was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

Since then, there has been more than 20 diagnosed cases in the U.S., according to USDA.

“We are still learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 in people, but it appears it can spread from people to animals in some situations,” stated USDA.

A small number of animals worldwide have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, mostly after close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19. According to the CDC, the risk of a positive-testing animal spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

“Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence pets play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people,” said Dr. Andy Schwartz, TAHC state veterinarian. “It’s always important to restrict contact with pets and other animals if an individual is infected with COVID-19 in order to protect them from infection.”

“It’s also important any animal suspected of possibly being infected with SARS-CoV-2 be evaluated for the other common causes of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms,” said Dr. Bruce Akey, director of Texas A&M Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL).

Culp explained coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, and animals can have their own coronaviruses. Some coronaviruses can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in some animals.

“Chances are very low that humans can spread it to animals, but it can happen,” Culp said. “People diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow the CDC guidelines and keep themselves away from their pets as well as other people.”

Guidance for COVID-19 and pets

The CDC has recently published some information for pet owners on what people need to know about COVID-19 and pets.

The CDC, USDA and state public health and animal health officials are working in some states to conduct active surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in pets, including cats, dogs and other small mammals, that had contact with a person with COVID-19.

According to the CDC, these animals are being tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection and also tested to see whether the pet develops antibodies to this virus to help better understand how common SARS-CoV-2 infection might be in pets as well as the possible role of pets in the spread of this virus.

“The CDC also has guidelines for anyone who has a service dog,” Culp said. “They don’t have to separate themselves, but certainly should wear a mask.”

Culp said CDC guidance indicates routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended.

“If an individual has an animal that a veterinarian believes to have clinical signs, they will approach it from a ‘one health’ approach,” Culp said. “CDC wants the vet to rule out all other causes of the clinical signs first. Then if that is done and it is still believed the animal may be infected, the vet will contact the state animal health official and state public health veterinarians.”

State veterinarians will work with the USDA on sample collection and submission.

“We want to let people know it is not common, but it is possible,” Culp said. “If someone has had COVID-19, they need to take precautions and social distance from their pet.”

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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