WASHINGTON, D.C. — On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) announced the first two United States cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in cats. The cases were confirmed in two separate areas of New York.
In both cases, veterinarians and health officials believe the virus was transmitted from a COVID-19 positive human or asymptomatic human carrier. One of the cats’ owners tested positive for COVID-19 before the pet began showing symptoms. The other cat showed symptoms although no members of the household tested positive for the virus, leading professionals to believe the pet was exposed to a mild or asymptomatic human case of COVID-19 or through contact with an infected person outside of the household, the CDC said.
Both cats showed mild respiratory symptoms and are expected to fully recover.
Following this news, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) released a statement encouraging pet owners to refrain from letting pets interact with people or other animals outside their household; keep cats indoors if possible; walk dogs on a lease and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, and avoid taking pets to parks or public places where there could be large groups.
Pet owners who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive should limit contact with pets, AVMF said, suggesting other members of the household care for the animals until they recover.
“There is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately,” AVMF said. “In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.”
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) also issued a statement about the two confirmed cases.
“It is important that the public remain confident in the USDA and CDC guidance that there continues to be no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States and therefore there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare,” PIJAC said.
Routine testing of pets is not recommended by the CDC at this time. Pet owners should consult a veterinary professional if a pet is showing signs of respiratory illness.
IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. is rolling out SARS-CoV-2 tests to veterinarians across the United States for special cases like these in which a pet is experiencing symptoms and other respiratory illnesses have been ruled out.
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