COVID-19 in Companion Animals25 Feb 2022
Evidence from overseas suggests it is possible for SARS-CoV-2 infection to occur in companion animals, however there are no confirmed reports of this in Australia. Current evidence suggests that even if companion animals do get infected with SARS-CoV-2, most have no symptoms or only mild disease. Occasionally they may develop severe disease, however this seems to be rare. If it does occur, it is often associated with comorbidities. At this time there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans. There is a low risk that animals may infect other animals they are in close contact with. Further reading here.
If testing is required, it is advised by the Australian Animal Health Committee that testing in animals for COVID-19 in Australia should only be undertaken on the advice of human and animal health authorities, and that veterinarians considering testing their patients for SARS-CoV-2 must consult with their state or territory animal health authorities first. In addition, the Australian Animal Health Committee advises that if testing is performed, confirmatory testing should be performed at the CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness.
Regarding vaccination of domestic pets, the current advice is that COVID-19 vaccination of animals in Australia is not required and there are no approved animal COVID-19 vaccines registered in Australia. The Australian government monitors this situation closely through monitoring emergence of new research and advice from global organisations, such as the OIE, and will modify its advice if required.
Veterinarians seeing pets of COVID-19 positive or at-risk humans should adopt the following measures:
- Minimise contact with the animal.
- Use gloves, surgical mask (if available), eye protection and a disposable gown (if available). All PPE should be removed carefully without touching the outside of masks, gowns and gloves.
- Practice good hand hygiene before and after wearing PPE/handling each animal.
- If you only have reusable gowns, wash with commercial laundry detergent in a hot wash and dry in a tumble dryer on high heat.
- Do not store reusable goggles in open containers on shelves. Clean and disinfect them and place in sealed containers.
- Animals can be washed using animal shampoo before the consultation. This will remove and deactivate the virus. If the animal does not require hospitalisation, or if washing would cause undue stress to the animal or exacerbate its medical condition is such a way that it would be inadvisable to do so, we suggest using PPE as described above.
Veterinarians should advise animal owners who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 virus to avoid close contact with their companion animals and have another member of their household care for them. If they must look after their companion animals, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible.