People who test positive for Covid-19 should protect their pets

This is a developing situation. Nobody wants to create alarm but the focus thus far has been on people and how many are infected and how many die. Companion animals are an afterthought but the picture is developing. It seems clear to me that people who have been infected with Covid-19 should consider their companion animals and the possibility that they have transmitted the disease to them.

Cat in lab. Picture: Getty Images.

We know that this can happen. It is completely clear that people can transmit this zoonotic disease to companion animals and indeed wild animals. The Bronx Zoo story illuminates that.

Today, MSN News reports that two domestic cats have tested positive for coronavirus in Texas. Until now we have had the odd, rare report of a domestic cat or dog acquiring the disease from people. Only a handful of pets, according to the media, have acquired the disease worldwide and the symptoms have been mild and the animals have apparently cured themselves without intervention. There is no indication at the moment that pets can transmit the disease to people.

So, to read about two cats in one state of the USA contracting the disease, is slightly concerning. Both cats are or were asymptomatic (no symptoms) and they both live with owners who have tested positive. Although the cats had mild symptoms or have been asymptomatic, there are reports in the online media which strongly indicates that the coronavirus infection can have long lasting effects on people who have contracted it such as: brain fog. There is a difficulty thinking after an acute infection. It is thought that Covid-19 may damage brain cells and inflammation may cause these complications. Shortness of breath is another after-effect. Heart and lung complications have been noticed by doctors. This includes lung scarring. And arrhythmia caused by damage to the heart is a further consequence. Hypertension is another possible long lasting effect and hair loss. It appears that the virus can cause temporary but excessive hair shedding.

The point is that some people you don’t just get over Covid-19. This prompts me to ask whether some companion animals might suffer the same consequences.

The tests on the cats were carried out by researchers at the Texas A&M University. They say that they are one of the few veterinary research groups across the country endeavouring to enhance our understanding of Covid-19 infections in pets. I agree that there is a need for this kind of research because, as mentioned, pets have been de-prioritised until now.

There is a need to actively screen dogs and cats living with people who have suffered with the disease. It would be nice to know the prevalence of the disease amongst companion animals in an area of the USA. Texas has quite a high level of Covid-19 infections amongst people according to reports. It’s a suitable place therefore to do some tests on pets. It might be possible to extrapolate the results to a wider area.

People should factor in, the researchers say, the possibility of pets becoming infected and take suitable precautions. In other words, the rules that apply to people-to-people interactions should also apply to interactions between people and animals.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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