By Dr. Jeff Nichol Thursday, July 8th, 2021 at 11:02pm
This COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang over us like a dark cloud, new variants putting unvaccinated people at increasing risk. Now we know that pets can get this from their people. New research has shown that dogs and cats, exposed to COVID at home, are significantly more vulnerable than homeless pets. Are we having fun yet?
A study at the University of Guelph tested pet dogs and cats, those staying in shelters, and strays with no history of human contact. The results were striking. About 70% of cats and 40% of dogs who lived with a COVID-positive person tested positive themselves. Only 10% of the shelter pets and a bare 3% of the strays got the virus.
Most infected pets did not get physically ill, but dogs with symptoms lost their appetites and became lethargic. Cats had nasal discharge and difficulty breathing. We can treat these pets, but we are saddened by preventable disease.
There were species differences. Canine COVID infections had little relation to the amount of human contact, but cats who stayed close to a carrier person were at higher risk. Those who slept on their sick person’s bed were the most susceptible.
This study confirmed that people who get COVID put their pets in jeopardy; not the other way around. Dr. Dorothee Bienzle, professor of veterinary pathology and co-author of the study, explained that we needn’t be concerned about getting COVID from pets.
“At this point, we should assume that, if we get infected, that our pets are susceptible, too, and they should be treated as any other household member.” Dr. Bienzle encourages sick people to wear a mask at home and to avoid contact with their pets. That would be a tall order for any of us, vaccinated or not.
Regardless of how any of us feels about our personal liberties, we can do right by our pets, whose loyalty for us is unquestioned. Since there is no COVID vaccine for cats or dogs, we can protect them by getting immunized ourselves.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.