Do not kick your pets out of the house.
On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories announced the country’s first pet cases of coronavirus among two cats in New York. At the same time, the CDC has reported no evidence of animals playing a significant role in spreading COVID-19.
The cats live in two different areas of the state and are expected to make a full recovery, according to the report. The CDC has confirmed a few cases of COVID-19 in cats and dogs around the world, most of which had close contact with a person who had the virus.
Dr. Viviana Rodriguez, Humane Society of Northeast Georgia’s lead veterinarian, said while people shouldn't worry about receiving the novel virus from their cats or dogs, pet owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 should implement the same social distancing protocols as they would with humans.
“Don’t kiss your cat on the mouth and limit cuddling to protect your cat,” she said.
Even if a person or their pet doesn’t have the virus, Rodriguez advises them to play it safe with social distancing. This includes keeping their cats inside and not taking their dogs to dog parks.
“Dogs interacting with other dogs is not OK,” said Julie Edwards, executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia. “Follow the same guidelines you do with humans. Don’t let them interact with other people or animals.”
Rodriguez said cats and ferrets are more susceptible to COVID-19 compared to canines, but people should still protect their dogs with the same amount of caution.
If a cat were to show symptoms of the novel virus, she said the signs could look like a respiratory illness, which includes mucus discharge from the nose, “eyes boogers” and possible sneezing.
“We see upper respiratory infections in cats all the time,” Rodriguez said. “Most animals respond very well to conservative management. If your cat has symptoms, definitely take them to the vet and get them treated for an upper respiratory infection. They’ll be fine for the most part.”
Fortunately, Edwards said cats react well to this form of treatment, which can include antibiotics. Unlike humans with COVID-19, she said felines “are not nearly as hard hit by symptoms.”
On April 20, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., a veterinary services company, announced its release of COVID-19 tests for dogs and cats.
The company stated on its website that it doesn’t expect its veterinary test to affect human COVID-19 testing or availability.
Veterinarians in the U.S. can now send samples out to the company, but at a steep price.
Rodrigues said veterinary clinics are able to purchase the tests for $170 each, but the price will be marked up to around $200 for pet owners.
Instead of collecting samples through the nose like with people, Rodriguez said specimens are taken from their stool or inside the throat for pets.
“Right now this test is not the protocol,” she said. “It’s not what the CDC or USDA is recommending.”
However, Rodriguez said if pet owners are extremely concerned about their animals, they can make a request through their veterinarian.
For more information about COVID-19 and how it affects pets, visit cdc.gov.