VANCOUVER — Cat and dog owners who cuddle their pets when infected with COVID-19 could end up making the animals sick with the virus, according to a Canadian study.
The study indicated that although it is already known that animals, including cats, dogs, ferrets and hamsters, appear to be susceptible to COVID-19, transmission may occur more often than expected. thought so before.
The research, published this month in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, involved 69 cats and 49 dogs, including pets and animals from shelters and neutering clinics.
Pet owners were also asked to complete an online survey about the nature of their interaction with their pets.
“These data indicate relatively common human-to-animal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and that certain human-animal contact – for example, kissing the animal, sleeping on the bed – appears to increase the risk,” said said the study.
“We inferred that infections in dogs and cats reflect direct human-to-animal transmission, given the pandemic nature of this virus in humans and the limited contact of most domestic animals with d ‘other animals.’
Dogs and cats who lived in shelters had lower rates of COVID-19 infection than those who lived with humans, said study co-author Professor Scott Weese of the Veterinary College of the United States. Ontario from the University of Guelph.
“It was quite a substantial difference as we expected,” Weese said.
Lead author Professor Dorothee Bienzle from the University of Guelph’s Department of Pathobiology said the findings suggest cats have a higher rate of COVID-19 infection than dogs.
“It has to do with how the virus latches on to the receptor in the cat’s or dog’s respiratory system,” Bienzle said.
The high prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies in cats surprised researchers, she said.
“We didn’t expect this much,” she said. “More than half of the cats that live in the household of someone with COVID had antibodies. That’s very high.
Animals infected with COVID-19 show symptoms similar to humans who become ill with the virus, she said.
“They have no appetite, they feel crummy, they sleep more, they can sneeze and cough,” she said.
Weese said cats are able to transmit the infection to each other, as well as to humans.
A veterinarian in Thailand was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August 2021, after sneezing from an infected cat belonging to a patient who had tested positive for the virus, he said. Genetic analysis showed the virus was passed from the cat’s owner to the animal and to the veterinarian, Weese said.
There is also evidence that mink infected by humans can transmit the virus to other people, he said.
Transmission from humans to animals can be minimized if owners keep their distance, wear a mask and take other precautions, just as they would to avoid infecting a person, he said.
“Ideally what we want to do is prevent it from spreading as much as possible so that people can limit the contact they have with animals when they are infected,” he said. “It’s ideal.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 26, 2022.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION