Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
Two cats living in New York State are the first U.S. pets to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, federal authorities announced April 22.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture advised that routine testing of pets is not recommended. The two cats displayed mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover.
No one in the first cat’s household was confirmed to have COVID-19, but the CDC theorized that the virus could have been transmitted “by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home.” The owner of the second cat tested positive for COVID-19 and another cat in the home showed no signs of illness, the CDC stated.
“Both cats tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported the results to state and federal officials,” the CDC stated. “The confirmatory testing was conducted at [the National Veterinary Services Laboratory] and included collection of additional samples.”
The CDC did not identify the private laboratory.
Maine-based Idexx Laboratories Inc. on April 20 launched the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) RealPCR Test for pets and recommended its use only in certain cases. Specimens collected by a veterinarian are sent to Idexx’s Molecular Diagnostics (PCR) Laboratory in Sacramento, California, for processing.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, in a statement posted after the CDC announcement, said it had “no information that suggests that pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”
“To date globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States,” the AVMA stated.
The CDC issued precautionary recommendations to pet owners “until we know more.” They include:
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
- If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, an advocacy group, urged pet owners not to panic.
“It is important that the public remain confident in the USDA and CDC guidance that there continues to be no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States and therefore there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare,” President Mike Bober said.
“Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have safely brought pets into their homes both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the human-animal bond continues to provide them with comfort, stress relief and other scientifically proven emotional and physical health benefits during this unprecedented crisis. The responsible pet care community is committed to protecting the health and well-being of humans and pets, and urges everyone to follow CDC’s advice to keep pets from interacting with people or animals outside your household, and to consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pets’ health.”
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