While there is no evidence to support that pets play a role in transmitting COVID-19 to humans, it doesn’t mean fluffy family members can’t contract the virus.
Earlier this month a lion at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did two cats in New York whose owners had COVID-19.
The Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association is working with the World Organization for Animal Health to better understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the COVID-19 virus and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species.
In the meantime, keeping pets safe from COVID-19 is top of mind for some owners. This is why Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna has been asking the Animal Health Centre for COVID-19 tests for animals.
Dr. Moshe Oz said he finally got a call from a lab in Vancouver that tests are available for animals and his hospital has access to them.
“We now can test pets for COVID-19 and it will take only one to three business days to get the results,” he explained.
If a pet is showing signs of respiratory distress it is possible to test them, however, Dr. Oz explained that each animal must meet certain criteria to be tested and he must discuss their symptoms with the chief veterinarian officer.
An animal can be tested if:
- The pet is living with a human who has tested positive or displaying signs of COVID-19.
- Other respiratory or common infection issues have been ruled out.
- The pet is showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“I will collect swabs as well as stool samples from the animals depending on what symptoms they are displaying,” said Dr. Oz. “If the test comes back positive we will have to deal with that then, as it will be the first in Canada and this is an unprecedented issue.”
Tests for pets are available at other veterinary clinics in the Okanagan and cost about $200.
As a precautionary measure, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends that people with COVID-19 symptoms or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, should follow similar recommendations around animals, as they would around other people in these circumstances:
- Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a potential infection.
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least six feet (two metres) from other people and animals.
- Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
- Practise good hand-washing and avoid coughing and sneezing on your animals.