COVID-19 and pets: Update from the AVA President

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Saturday, 28 March 2020 

On Friday 27 March it was reported that a pet cat in Belgium has tested positive for the virus. It is owned by a COVID-19 infected person.

A Belgian news report on this can be read here.

This appears to be another case of human-to animal transmission.  So far we are aware of only 3 cases of this in the world – 2 dogs in Hong Kong, and this cat in Belgium.  Neither dog had clinical signs of the disease, nor was infectious virus isolated from the dogs.  However the cat was reported to have vomiting, diarrhoea, and respiratory signs.

It is believed that human to animal transmission is still exceedingly rare.  IDEXX have tested approximately 4000 canine and feline samples in Canada, USA and EU, including areas with high rates of COVID-19 in the human population. All samples have been negative to date.  At this stage there is no indication that testing of companion animals is necessary in Australia.

The AVA President has today produced a video which you can share with your clients to reassure them on this issue:

Key messages for your staff and clients:

  • This appears to be another case of human to animal transmission, which is believed to be exceedingly rare
  • There is still no indication that pets can infect humans, or play any role in the spread of this disease.
  • The main method of transmission of COVID-19 is human to human
  • Hand hygiene is essential before and after handling your pets, as well as their food and water bowls.
  • Pet owners who may be infected with the virus are advised to keep their pets with them, but minimise close contact and handling as a precautionary measure.
Update on Pomeranian dog which tested positive in Hong Kong 

It has now been shown that the dog was antibody-positive, though did not show any clinical signs, and remained healthy during its period in quarantine.  Sadly the dog died a few days after returning home from quarantine. It should be noted that the dog was 17 years old.

A report from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong can be read here.

The AVA will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with regular updates.

Melanie Latter
Head of Policy and Advocacy

Julia Crawford
AVA President 

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