Categories: COVID-People

People with COVID Often Infect Their Pets

European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. The papers have not yet been published in scientific journals.

A team led by veterinarian Dorothee Bienzle of the University of Guelph in Ontario investigated potential COVID infection in 198 cats and 54 dogs. All of the dogs and 48 of the cats came from a household in which at least one person had COVID, and the rest of the cats came from an animal shelter or neuter clinic. The team found that two out of three cats and two out of five dogs whose owners had COVID had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, indicating they had been infected with the virus at some point, too. But in the shelter group, less than one in 10 cats had these antibodies. And in the neuter clinic, the figure was less than one in 38.

Dogs and cats that came from households in which owners had COVID also often developed symptoms of the disease, Bienzle and her team report. Between 20 and 30 percent of the animals experienced loss of energy and appetite, coughing, diarrhea, runny nose and respiratory problems. The complications were mostly mild and short-term, but they were severe in three cases. In cats, the risk of infection was higher in those that were closely cuddled by their owners, according to behavioral surveys the researchers conducted in addition to the antibody tests. This cuddling correlation was not observed in dogs.

Veterinarian Els Broens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and her colleagues conducted similar studies on 156 dogs and 154 cats from about 200 households with human COVID patients. The researchers found that animals in one in five of these households had become infected with the virus—results identified by positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antibody tests. Disease symptoms, especially respiratory and gastrointestinal complications, also occurred in the animals but were mostly mild.

Both Bienzle’s and Broens’s groups conclude that humans often transmit SARS-CoV-2 to their pets. “This is not at all surprising,” says Sarah Hamer, a veterinary epidemiologist at Texas A&M University, who is conducting similar studies on COVID-positive pets in the U.S. As research rolls in, she says, the international veterinary field is finding that pet owners transmitting the virus to their furry friends is more common than originally thought. “The findings are consistent: it’s

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