The transmission of the novel coronavirus to pets has gone mostly undiscussed by the public amid the pandemic. However, reports have confirmed a small, yet growing list of positive cases among companion animals and exotic cats in the US, and researchers at Texas A&M University, which is located in Brazos County, have recently provided further insight into the topic.
The researchers said that both of the cats were asymptomatic and lived with people who had tested positive for COVID-19 themselves. “By sampling dogs and cats whose owners have tested positive in Brazos County, the team is working to understand how pets living in ‘high-risk’ households may be impacted” by the coronavirus, said a Thursday news release from the university.
The results suggest it is possible for pets in such “high-risk” environments to contract COVID-19, according to Dr. Sarah Hamer, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“We’re one of a few veterinary research groups across the country that are conducting similar investigations to provide an enhanced understanding about SARS-CoV-2 infections in pets - asking questions such as, are pets being exposed? Becoming infected? Can they spread the virus to humans or other animals? Do they get sick?” Hamer said in the news release.
Hamer said that the research team is still testing additional household pets. While the two cats’ owners said that during their own bouts with COVID-19, the pets did not show any symptoms of the illness, Hamer noted that one of the felines “developed several days of sneezing after we tested it.”
She added that the findings indicate that people who test positive for COVID-19 should consider the safety of their pets and attempt to avoid infecting them by limiting contact or wearing a face mask, just as they would with other humans.
The first dog in the US to test positive for COVID-19, a 7-year-old German shepherd from New York named Buddy, died in July. Blood work from the canine suggested he may also have been battling lymphoma, a type of cancer.