WESTBROOK, MAINE — IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. announced April 20 it will begin supplying SARS-CoV-2 tests to veterinarians across North America this week. Though there is still no evidence that companion animals are spreading the virus, the veterinary diagnostics and software company said there have been rare cases in which pets became infected with SARS-CoV-2 after being exposed to a COVID-19 positive person.

IDEXX Reference Laboratories, which operates 80 facilities around the world, will facilitate the roll out in North America. The company plans to distribute tests to veterinarians in other countries in the coming weeks.

"We have continued to monitor the rapidly evolving public health crisis worldwide, paying special attention to the effects on pets," said Jay Mazelsky, president and chief executive officer of IDEXX Laboratories. "While there is currently no evidence that dogs or cats play a role in transmitting the disease to humans, it became clear offering the test was the right thing to do when we saw clinical evidence that pets — especially cats and ferrets — can in rare cases be at risk for infection. And, we heard from our customers around the globe that veterinarians needed a testing option."

The company has also issued guidance on how to test most efficiently, advising that veterinarians use the test only after consulting with a public health authority and if the animal is living in the same household as a human who has tested positive for COVID-19, if other common infections have been ruled out, and if the pet is showing clinical symptoms of the virus, especially among cats and ferrets. IDEXX advises against testing pets that are not showing symptoms.

IDEXX has tested more than 5,000 samples from cats, dogs and horses with respiratory symptoms across 17 countries since mid-February, finding no positive test results for the virus. The company maintains that, in most cases, pets are not spreading it to humans and remain largely uninfected even when exposed to the virus, “except in rare and isolated cases,” it said.

The company is also developing a PCR test kit for COVID-19 in humans through its human health business, OPTI Medical Systems.

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