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Coronavirus: Are Pets at Risk and Can Pets Spread the Virus to People?

Coronavirus: Are Pets at Risk and Can Pets Spread the Virus to People?

               Coronavirus has been prominent in the news lately as a potentially deadly infection sickening many people across the globe.  A new strain called 2019-nCoV originating in Wuhan, China, has now also been found in Europe and many other countries including Australia, Canada, Finland, India and a small number of cases in the United States.  This virus has now been found to spread from person to person and is causing respiratory symptoms.  You may be wondering if coronaviruses affect pets and do these strains pose any risk to humans? We will discuss this below.

               Coronaviruses are found all over the world and in many species of animals. In most cases, they are very species specific meaning a canine coronavirus cannot infect a person or another animal like a cat, only other dogs.  But, in rare cases, some animal coronaviruses can mutate and infect people.  For instance, the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was thought to have originated from bats.  At this time, there is no risk to humans from coronaviruses infecting domestic animals.

               In dogs, coronaviruses often cause short-lived gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, though a respiratory form also exists.  Dogs are usually only sick for a few days and no treatment other than symptomatic care is needed.  Coronavirus is not typically fatal in dogs.  A vaccine does exist, but due to the fact that the symptoms are typically mild, and the protective effect of the vaccine is low, vaccinating dogs against coronavirus is not recommended.  And, let’s remember, canine coronavirus does not infect people.

               In most cats, coronaviruses usually cause no illness or mild flu-like symptoms which resolve without treatment.  There is no effective vaccine available for feline coronavirus.  In a small number of cats, about 5-10%, the coronavirus can mutate and cause a serious and usually fatal disease called FIP or Feline Infectious Peritonitis.  It typically affects very young or very old cats causing fever and fluid in the chest or abdomen.  There are some new treatment options for FIP on the horizon that look promising, but they are not yet widely available.  Again, no feline coronaviruses have been known to affect people.

               The threat of human coronavirus is currently low in the United States, but it may be spreading.  While dogs and cats can be infected with various strains of coronavirus, these strains are not known to infect people and the new human strain is not known to infect dogs or cats so no worries about our pets transmitting or contracting the 2019-nCoV strain at this time.

               This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.




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