New study prompts warning from vets on possible Covid danger from pets

New study prompts warning from vets on possible Covid danger from pets

New research by vets in the Netherlands has suggested Covid is common in pet cats and dogs whose owners have the disease, prompting fears they could act as a reservoir for infection.

Swabs were taken from 310 pets in 196 households where a human infection had been detected and six cats and seven dogs returned a positive PCR result, while 54 animals tested positive for  antibodies.

Dr Els Broens, from Utrecht University, said: “If you have Covid, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people

“The main concern is not the animals’ health but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.”

The authors of the study said there was no evidence of pet-to-owner transmission but stated that would be hard to prove while the virus was still spreading easily between people.

Most infected pets tend to be asymptomatic or display mild Covid symptoms.

Mobile veterinary clinic
A mobile veterinary clinic from the Dutch Stray Cat Foundation was used for the research

In gathering their findings researchers sent a mobile veterinary clinic to households in the Netherlands that had tested positive for Covid at some point in the past 200 days.

Swabs were taken from their pet cats and dogs to test for evidence of a current infection, while blood samples were also tested for antibodies suggesting a past exposure to Covid.

Results presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease showed:

  • 4.2% showed evidence of a current infection
  • 17.4% tested positive for antibodies

Follow-up tests showed all the PCR-positive (polymerase chain reaction) animals cleared the infection and went on to develop antibodies.

“We can’t say there is a 0% risk of owners catching Covid from their pets,” Veterinary Microbiological Diagnostic Centre Dr Broens said.

“At the moment, the pandemic is still being driven by human-to-human infections, so we just wouldn’t detect it.”

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