People with COVID-19 can infect cats and dogs and make them sick by cuddling them, a study says

VANCOUVER — Cat and dog owners who cuddle their pets when they’re infected with COVID-19 could be causing the animals to contract the virus, according to a Canadian study.

VANCOUVER — Cat and dog owners who cuddle their pets when they’re infected with COVID-19 could be causing the animals to contract the virus, according to a Canadian study.

The study says that while it was already known that animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets and hamsters appear to be susceptible to COVID-19, transmission may be more common than previously thought.

The research, published this month in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, included 69 cats and 49 dogs, including pets and animals from shelters and spay/neuter clinics.

Pet owners were also asked to fill out an online survey about how they interacted with their animals.

“These data indicate relatively common human-to-animal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and that certain human-animal contacts — for example, kissing the pet, pet sleeping on the bed — appear to increase the risk “, says the study.

“We concluded that infections in dogs and cats reflect direct transmission from humans to animals, given the pandemic nature of this virus in humans and the limited contact of most pets with other animals.”

Dogs and cats living in shelters had lower rates of COVID-19 infection compared to those living with humans, said study co-author Prof Scott Weese of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College.

“It was quite a big difference, as we expected,” said Weese.

Lead author Prof Dorothee Bienzle, from the University of Guelph’s Department of Pathobiology, said the results suggest cats have a higher rate of COVID-19 infection than dogs.

“It has to do with how well the virus attaches itself to the receptor in the cat’s or dog’s respiratory system,” says Bienzle.

The high prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies in cats surprised researchers, she said.

“We didn’t expect so many,” she said. “Over half of the cats living in a household of a person who had COVID had antibodies. That is very high.”

Animals infected with COVID-19 show symptoms similar to people who contract the virus, she said.

“They don’t have an appetite, they feel lousy, they sleep more, they might sneeze and cough,” she said.

Weese said cats can transmit the infection to each other and to humans as well.

A veterinarian in Thailand was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August 2021 after being sneezed on by an infected cat belonging to a patient who had tested positive for the virus, he said. Genetic analysis showed the virus was passed from cat owner to pet and to vet, Weese said.

There is also evidence that mink infected by humans could spread the virus to other humans, he said.

Human-to-animal transmission can be minimized by owners keeping their distance, wearing a mask and taking other precautions, just as they would to prevent infecting a person, he said.

“Ideally, we want to prevent it from spreading as much as possible so that people can limit contact with animals if they are infected,” he said. “That’s ideal.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Leave a Comment