Coronavirus may be common in cats and dogs whose owners have the disease, research carried out at Utrecht University suggests.
The researchers took swabs from 310 pets living in 196 households where at least one human was known to have had coronavirus. They identified a positive PCR result in six cats and seven dogs, and a further 54 animals tested positive for antibodies.
Given that other studies showing Covid-19 rates to be higher in pets that have been in contact with people with the virus, the most likely route of transmission is from human to pet, rather than the other way round, the researchers said.
‘If you have Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people,’ research leader Els Broens said.
‘The main concern, however, is not the animals’ health – they had no or mild symptoms of COVID-19 – but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.
‘Fortunately, to date no pet-to-human transmission has been reported. So, despite the rather high prevalence among pets from COVID-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic.’
The research will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this weekend, alongside similar Canadian research which also looks at Covid-19 in pet cats.
Last spring three cats and a dog in the Netherlands were diagnosed as having coronavirus. The three cats lived on one of the four mink farms where the virus has already been identified and the dog was owned by a man who had been diagnosed with the virus.
All four animals would appear to have been infected by humans and there is no evidence that pets can transfer the virus to humans, farm minister Carola Schouten said at the time. ‘In all the cases involving infected animals which we have seen so far, the owners were first diagnosed and then the animals.’
The spread of coronavirus among mink led the Netherlands to close down its fur farming industry several years ahead of schedule.