March 24, 2021 One Health

New Data on COVID-19’s Impact on Animals

A veterinarian in a lab

New Data on COVID-19’s Impact on Animals

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have frequently been more questions than answers. One question sitting in the back of pet families’ minds is whether or not their favorite fur person could give them SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the disease known as COVID-19. A year into the pandemic we are starting to have some answers.

A note on terminology: COVID-19 is the name of the disease in humans. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus and the name of the disease in animals.

Animals with Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection

The United States Department of Agriculture keeps a list of animals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection on their website. As of January 15, 2021, 3,625 animals have been tested with positive results for 67 cats and 46 dogs. The list also contains zoo animals infected by humans. You may remember that the first animal case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in New York were the big cats at the Bronx Zoo. Since then, gorillas in San Diego have been infected, some requiring monoclonal antibodies to improve their condition. The gorillas have now been vaccinated with a vaccine being developed for animals. And in the Louisville Zoo, a snow leopard was confirmed to have the virus. But mink seem to be most susceptible to the virus.

Mink Farms Worldwide Have Been Hotspots

Mink farms worldwide have been a hot bed of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. In many cases, infected farm workers have transmitted the virus to the mink, and it spread rapidly between the mink,  one of the most susceptible non-human species to SARS-CoV-2. Scientists investigating the mink farm outbreaks discovered a mutation in the mink coronavirus that allows it to be transmitted back to humans. Fortunately, there are no other reports of animals transmitting the virus to humans, other than mink-to-human transmission.

Good News for Pet Parents

About 6 weeks ago, the Journal of Small Animal Practice published data from IDEXX Laboratories on SARS-CoV-2 in dogs and cats. Using samples submitted for respiratory disease in early 2020 and a proprietary SARS-CoV-2 test for animals, IDEXX screened nearly 4,500 samples from Asia, Europe and the United States. They found no positive test results. This study is the first in what I expect will be a large number of studies investigating coronavirus in pets, so the story is far from complete on this issue. However, this new data supports the previous guidance that your pet is not an important player in the perpetuating the pandemic. Good news at the end of a long year.

Tags: coronavirus, dogs, Mink, San Diego Zoo, SARS-CoV-2,

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