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Should we be worried about our pets and coronavirus?

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SALT LAKE CITY — After learning a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, the first known case of an animal picking up coronavirus from a human, some humans want to know: is there a connection between pets and coronavirus?

COVID-19 in big cats at the Bronx Zoo

Five other tigers and lions at the zoo have the same dry cough, officials said. However, they only tested the one tiger for coronavirus because testing wild animals requires putting them under general anesthesia.

Zoo officials believe a zookeeper, who did test positive for COVID-19, spread the virus.

tiger coronavirus

FILE – This Sept. 21, 2012, file photo shows an entrance to the Bronx Zoo in New York. A tiger at the zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus. It’s believed to be the first infection in an animal in the U.S. and the first known in a tiger anywhere, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Sunday, April 5, 2020. The zoo says all the animals are expected to recover. (AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerlad, File)

According to an article from Time.com, a keeper could transmit the disease to an animal in several ways.

“The handler might have been [close to] the tiger, and may have sneezed or coughed, which could cause infection. The tiger could also have come into contact with something the handler earlier touched,” the magazine reported.

What it means for pets and coronavirus

A preliminary study from China, unconfirmed by any other laboratories, suggests dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks appear less likely to get COVID-19 from humans.  However, it found ferrets and cats may be more susceptible to contracting the virus.

Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, studied coronaviruses for decades. He said that tigers also caught the related coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), during the outbreak from 2002 to 2004.

According to Nancy Larsen, DVM, owner of Senior Cat House Calls, it’s too early to tell just how infectious this virus is for our animal companions.  But, she added, taking the precautions we already do to prevent human transmission will help keep your pets healthy.

“There is very limited research right now on this new coronavirus where pets are concerned,” Larsen said, adding that the information we get changes almost daily.

DNA: do not abandon

The most important thing to note, Larsen said, “is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) president, John Howe, says there is no evidence our pets can transmit the disease to their human owners.”

And the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and AVMA issued a joint statement saying “there is no justification for abandoning your pets” in regards to COVID-19.

Larsen said following the CDC guidelines for washing our hands is just as important for our pets as for us.

If you get coronavirus, the experts recommend finding another person to be the primary caregiver for your pets if possible. Also, they recommend you always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, whether around your pets or other people. And try not to let either pets or people lick your hands or face.

More information regarding your pets and coronavirus can be found here.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:  https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States