Last week two cats in New York tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first time a pet tested positive for coronavirus.
The tests were administered by a private veterinary laboratory. The tests used for cats are different from the tests used for humans. Currently pet coronavirus tests are only available for government agencies and academic institutions to assist in research of COVID-19.
The cats live in different parts of New York state. "The two cats that tested positive in NY had 'mild upper respiratory symptoms' this means sneezing, runny nose," said Veterinarian Gina Lewis from Vetters Animal Hospital. "General practitioners are not allowed to order tests. All testing must be approved and conducted through the state veterinarian's office at this time. So far the cats that have tested positive including the cats in Bronx zoo have not needed treatment." All the infected cats in New York are expected to make a full recovery.
One cat was exposed to COVID-19 through a sick owner. It is unknown how the second cat was infected. It is speculated that the pet was exposed to an asymptomatic household member or with contact with a neighbor with coronavirus.
So if you have a cat showing respiratory symptoms, what do you do? "We would instruct them to keep the cat isolated from other animals and people, monitor the cat for appetite and water intake," said Lewis. "Keep an eye out for any abnormal nasal discharge (green or yellow) as this may indicate a secondary bacterial infection."
The CDC is still learning about the virus and says there is no evidence that pets spread COVID-19. The virus is still considered human-to-human transmission, and possibly a human-to-pet transmission.
"COVID-19 is currently considered primarily a human to human disease with dogs and cats being a minor footnote," said Chief Veterinary Officer at Trupanion and Member of the COVID Council for Animal Health Dr. Steve Weinrauch, BVMS, MRCVS. "SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in very few animals worldwide, mostly in those that had known close contact with a person with COVID-19 and the current evidence is overwhelming that COVID-19 is primarily a people problem. That said, We all know that testing is limited right now, even in people. It's very likely that far more than 2 million people have had COVID-19 (often without being aware) and there are probably some animals that we have not identified as well. There is no evidence that this is a serious illness in pets, there is no evidence that pets can give this to people and the best advice is still to socially distance with your pet."
Since there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus, there is no justification in taking any measures against companion animals.
In Washington State 23 pets have been tested, all with negative results.
The CDC recommends keeping pets indoors, and away from people and other animals outside the household. Test positive individuals should restrict contact with their pets and wear a face mask during interactions. Washing your hands before and after handling your pet is advised.