Cat or dog owners with Covid-19 should avoid their pets while they are infected, experts said.
Scientists in the Netherlands have found that the coronavirus is spread among domestic cats and dogs whose owners have the disease.
While cases where owners pass Covid-19 on to their pets are viewed as negligible public health risks, scientists see a “potential risk” that pets could act as a “reservoir” for the coronavirus and reintroduce it to humans.
Dr. Els Broens from Utrecht University in the Netherlands said: â€œIf you have Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog as you would with other people.
â€œThe main concern, however, is not the health of the animals – they had no or only mild symptoms of Covid-19 – but the potential risk that pets could act as reservoirs for the virus and bring it back into the human population.
â€œFortunately, no animal-to-human transmission has been reported.
“Despite the relatively high prevalence of pets from Covid-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets will play a role in the pandemic.”
Dr. Broens-led research was presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) but has not yet been published in a journal.
Dr. Broens and his colleagues analyzed the PCR test results from 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households.
Six cats and seven dogs (4.2%) had positive PCR tests and 31 cats and 23 dogs (17.4%) tested positive for antibodies.
Eight cats and dogs that lived in the same households as the PCR positive pets were also tested a second time to check for virus transmission between pets.
None of the animals tested positive, suggesting that the virus was not transmitted between pets that live in close contact with one another.
However, researchers said their results show that Covid-19 is very common in pets of people who have the disease.
Meanwhile, separate research, also presented at the ECCMID meeting, suggests that cats sleeping on their owner’s bed may be at particular risk of developing Covid-19 from their owners.
Dorothee Bienzle, professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Canada, who presented the results, said: â€œIf someone has Covid-19, there is a surprisingly high chance that they will pass it on to their pet.
â€œCats, especially those who sleep on their owner’s bed, seem particularly vulnerable.
“So, if you have Covid-19, I would advise you to keep your distance from your pet – and keep it out of your bedroom.”
Prof. Bienzle also recommends keeping pets infected with the coronavirus away from other people and pets.
She said, â€œWhile the evidence that pets can transmit the virus to other pets is limited, it cannot be ruled out.
“Even if pets have not been shown to pass the virus back to humans, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out.”
Commenting on the results, Professor James Wood, director of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, said both studies â€œagree with a growing body of studies suggesting that a significant proportion of domestic cats and dogs may get sars. CoV-2 virus (which causes Covid-19) from its owners â€.
He added, â€œCats and dogs can often be infected with the virus, but most reports say that this infection appears to be asymptomatic.
â€œIt also appears that the virus is not normally transmitted from dogs and cats to other animals or their owners.
“These studies need to be distinguished from previous work that has reported that a very small number of individual cats and dogs are not doing well after capturing Covid-19 from their owners.”