Can my pet get COVID-19 virus?

Dr. Ankur Sharma
Since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, many loving pet parents have been worried not only about their own health but also for their pets. The corona pandemic has progressed at such a reckless pace that manyquestions about where the virus originated and how it spreads still need to be definitively answered.
Scattered reports providing evidence of Covid-19infection in household pets has been observed from several countries. A 17 year old dog in Hong Kong tested weakly positivefor coronavirus in March 2020 and later died. A cat in Belgium and two cats in New York tested positive, likely after contracting the virus from people in their homes or their neighbourhood. Even a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo was diagnosed with Covid-19.Ferrets and goats in India have been observed to have coronavirus but poultry and pigs aren’t at any risk.
We are a more greater threat to our pets than they are to us. Dogs and cats can contract Covid-19 from their owners and even display mild to non-existent respiratory symptoms, according to a new study.Domestic animals including dogs naturally carry other coronaviruses in their gastro-intestinal and respiratory tract, which is different from the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Human-to-animal transmission can occur but dog-to-dog appears unlikely. However, cats appear to be prone to infection and further monitoring should be considered. But as pet testing remains rare, it’s unclear how many cats and dogs have been infected with Covid -19 virus.
But do keep in mind that young children or people with weakened immune systems or persons aged 65 and older are more likely to get sick from some other germs that animals may carry. Your pet’s hair is porous and also fibrous, so it is very unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet as fibrous materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
If no one in your house has symptoms of COVID-19, you don’t have to do anything different. You can go for walks with your pets, feed them, and play with them. But if you feel your pet shows symptoms of COVID-19 (fever or respiratory distress), follow the same precautions you would if a family member became infected. Since, there aren’t any drugs for the disease, a veterinarian wouldn’t prescribe anything specific for the pet. Aim to isolate your pet in a separate room away from the rest of your family and have your pet stay at home. Wear gloves whenever you feed your pet or clean its dishes, waste or bedding. Wash your hands after touching any of your pet’s items.
Don’t put a face covering on your pet as they may not protect him from disease transmission and may cause breathing difficulties. Never use hand sanitizer or chemical disinfectants to wipe your pet as these are harmful and penetrate the skin or be ingested by your pet. If your pet develops any new symptoms or seems to be getting worse, call the veterinarian.
Veterinary science specialists have approved that there is no definite evidence that a pet could give Covid-19 to its owner, the virus does not change between species so it is certainly possible. But if your pet becomes sick, there’s reason to be hopeful and be optimistic. Of the small number of dogs and cats confirmed to have the virus that causes COVID-19, some didn’t show any signs of illness. The pets that did become ill only experienced mild symptoms and none of them died.
The safety precautions for pets haven’t changed. Whether it comes to taking your dog to a park or petting an outdoor cat, the standard advice still holds: Wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance. If you are not taking precautions, you are putting both yourself and your animal at risk, but if you are a responsible pet owner, then it is probably safe to say that your animal’s risk [of infection] is lower than yours. For more queries, contact your local vet.
(The author is assistant Professor, Division of Veterinary Surgery and Radiology, FVSc& AH, SKUAST-J, RS Pura, Jammu)