DR. KRISTIN TVRDIK, MEDICAL DIRECTOR AT HINSDALE HUMANE SOCIETY SHARES UPDATES
On Sunday, April 5, news was released that lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo started showing respiratory signs, including a cough. The animals had been exposed to a zoo employee who worked closely with the cats and tested positive. Only one of the cats, a tiger named Nadia, was tested due to the logistics of getting a sample from a large, dangerous cat, and she was positive for COVID-19. This story joins previous reports of a cat in Belgium and 2 dogs in China who tested positive after being exposed to a COVID-positive owner.
Here’s a summary of everything we currently know based on sources including the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), the USDA, the CDC, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
1. All of the animals, including the big cats at the Bronx Zoo are expected to make or have already made full recoveries. You may have heard that one of the dogs in China was euthanized, but this was unfortunately due to it being a 17-year-old dog who was near the end of its life and it passed away after being released from the quarantine hold.
2. Despite over 1.3 million people testing COVID-positive in the world, there have only been four pets that tested positive from these homes. When considering that there are over 800 million dogs and cats living with people in their homes across the world, this is a staggeringly low percentage of possible animal cases.
3. IDEXX, a well-respected, large veterinary laboratory, began including COVID-19 testing on all respiratory samples from cats and dogs in the United States approximately one month ago. Out of thousands of tests evaluated so far, the company has seen zero positive results. These include pets from hotbed areas like Seattle and New York.
4. You may have also heard of a study showing that ferrets and cats in particular can become infected and transmit COVID-19 to other animals. When evaluating these stories, it is essential to know all of the facts. This study involved scientists innoculating, or swabbing the virus at high doses directly into the respiratory tracts of these animals. This is not a representation of how a pet would be exposed in a normal environment with its owner.
5. It is important to consider our pets in the same way we are protecting ourselves at this time of social-distancing. If you are sick or know of someone who is sick, consider isolating yourself from the animals in your home in the same way you would isolate yourself from other people. Feed them and attend to their basic needs, but limit contact. Animals with COVID-positive owners should be quarantined in the home if possible and avoid contact with other people or animals. While at this time, there is emerging evidence that it is POSSIBLE for animals to contract the virus, there is absolutely no evidence that animals can give it to us. Neither the CDC nor the USDA see any evidence of a credible threat for domestic animals to spread this disease and recommend continuing to care for and love your pets while taking the previously-mentioned precautions. If you or your pet appear to be sick with COVID-like symptoms, please contact your veterinarian and your personal physician for advice on next steps as soon as possible.
In these uncertain times with constantly-evolving recommendations, it is important to remain thoughtful when evaluating sources of information. A wide variety of truth, lies and sensationalism exists and it is important to look to the experts to provide you with the most up-to-date and reliable information to keep you, your loved ones, and your beloved pets safe. HHS is committed to continually researching and evaluating these sources to keep you as up-to-date as possible.
*Disclaimer: This is an evolving situation. Please continue to monitor us or the following sources for information about COVID and animals.