First Pets Test Positive for COVID-19 in US
Despite positive tests, the CDC stresses that there is no proven risk to humans and that widespread testing of pets is discouraged.
Two cats in separate areas of New York State have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2—a virus that causes the illness COVID-19—becoming the first companion animals in the United States to do so, according to the CDC and USDA. Despite the positive result, the CDC reiterates that there is no evidence of pets spreading the virus to humans. The CDC states that no measures should be be taken against pets that might compromise their welfare and that routine testing of animals is not recommended at this time.
Both cats showed mild signs of respiratory illness, but are expected to make a full recovery, according to the USDA.
Antech Diagnostics, part of Mars Petcare, discovered the positive samples via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis as part of its active surveillance program, which is intended to detect any possible emergence of the virus among companion animals. PCR testing can detect “viral RNA or nucleic acids with high sensitivity and high specificity,” according to the CDC, and is the method used in the majority of human testing. Confirmatory testing was conducted by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). Antech Diagnostic states that these are the only positive cases out of 2,000+ samples taken as part of its surveillance program.
One cat came in contact with its owner, who is COVID-19 positive, while the other is suspected of contracting the virus from an asymptomatic human.
Idexx Laboratories Inc. is also among the veterinary service companies that has developed a COVID-19 test for pets. The test is available in North America and should be used by veterinarians after “consultation with a public health authority,” per an Idexx statement.
The CDC and AVMA are currently discouraging the regular testing of pets. The AVMA states that the “decision to test should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials.”
The CDC makes the following recommendations until more information is gathered, stressing that the known risk from pets is low and that nothing should be done to harm companion animals:
- 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 6 feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
For humans positive with COVID-19
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
“There is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately,” states the AVMA. “In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.”