Cats and dogs often get COVID-19 from humans, study finds

Man, woman and pets, photo: Sarandy Westfall on Unsplash
Man, woman and pets, photo: Sarandy Westfall on Unsplash

“About one out of five pets will catch the disease (COVID-19) from their (infected) owners,” said Dr Els Broens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Luckily, the animals do not get very ill from it.”

Broens’ study, presented in a paper at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, tested 156 dogs and 154 cats from households where humans were known to have been infected with the coronavirus.

About 17% of the animals, 31 cats and 23 dogs, had antibodies for COVID-19, suggesting that they were infected in the past. Six cats and seven dogs had an active infection, determined by a PCR test. Most owners said their dogs or cats did not show any signs of illness.

“It seems that this virus is well adapted to humans, to cause severe illness in humans, and it’s less adapted to cats and dogs,” Broens said about why dogs and cats did not get as sick as humans from the infection.

All the dogs and cats were infected by their owners; there were no cases of transmissions from animal to animal or from animal to human.

“For the PCR-positive animals, we went back to test them again, and we saw that they didn’t pass it to the other pets in the household,” Broens told Reuters. “And there are no cases described yet where we see there’s pet to human transmission.”

Broens advises pet owners to avoid close contact with their dog or cat if they test positive for COVID-19: “The risk is very low, but there are some exceptions with severely ill cats and dogs.”

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