Pets unlikely to spread virus

It is highly unlikely that you can catch Covid-19 from your pet; they might be at greater risk of catching it from you.

The intergovernmental body responsible for improving animal health worldwide, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says that while some
examples of animal infections have been reported to it, so far these appear to be isolated cases.

“There is no evidence that companion animals are playing a role in the spread of human disease.”

But it adds that because Covid-19 infections are widely distributed in the human population, there is a chance some animals may become infected through close contact with infected humans.

The organisation says the infection of animals with Covid-19 might have implications for animal
health and welfare, and for wildlife conservation.

Several dogs and cats (domestic cats and a tiger) have tested positive for Covid-19, following close contact with infected humans.

OIE says, to date, there is no evidence companion animals play a significant role in spreading the disease, so there is no justification for taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says based on current evidence, human-to-human transmission remains the main
driver of Covid-19.

“Further evidence is needed to understand if animals and pets can spread the disease,” it says on its website.

President of the British Veterinary Association, Daniella Dos Santos, says: “There have been a tiny number of cases of Covid-19 in animals, and in all cases, it is
likely that the transmission was human to animal.

“There is no evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners.”

Susan Wishart, general manager of Mdzananda Animal Clinic, says they are following research and new information closely.

In the first week of lockdown, three pets were handed over to the clinic.

While the humans battle Covid-19, animals are fighting parvovirus, and, according to Ms Wishart, the clinic’s isolation ward is full.

“We are seeing a huge spike in parvo. This might be due to people not being able to bring their puppies for vaccinations at 6 weeks of age as they were stressed / preoccupied due to the Covid-19 scare or could not pay for transport.”

Lockdown is taking its toll on the community and clinic, she says.

“We are suffering loss of income due to not being able to generate on-site income through our vet shop and food sales, consultation and adoption fees. We are making about a third of our usual income.”

Donations are down and because staff can’t use public transport, the clinic has had to hire drivers to get them to and from work.

“We have fewer hands on site as we are running a half team but are still extremely busy.”

Many people in the community can’t take their pets to the clinic right now, she says, because they have no income or way of getting there.

To get around this the clinic is providing free treatment during lockdown and a free ambulance service to collect and deliver pets with life-threatening illnesses and injuries

SPCA spokesperson Tara McGovern says she knows of no evidence showing pets spread Covid-19 to other animals and or people, but there’s still much about the virus we don’t know. “As this is a virus, we do understand that even the best measures can still not completely prevent transmission. However, staff are ensuring that everyone, including members of the public, abide by our strict hygiene protocols to limit the spread of the disease.”

The SPCA has 23 staff, including a vet, living on-site during lockdown to help critically ill or injured animals.

People should arrange, in the event of them falling ill with Covid-19, to have their pets cared for by friends or family, she says.

“Prepare a kit of pet food and pet supplies and medicines in case you need to be quarantined.”

She adds: “As we still do not know or understand enough about this virus, if you do become sick with Covid-19, please limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a face mask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.”