We wanted to share excerpts from three different sources that discuss the current state of COVID-19 and how it pertains to companion animals and veterinary clinics.  We have provided short excerpts here, for the full articles please see the links included below.

University of Wisconsin Confirms Cats Can Become Infected and Transmit COVID-19

excerpt from the UW article dated 5/13/2020

In a study published today (May 13, 2020) in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists in the U.S. and Japan report that in the laboratory, cats can readily become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be able to pass the virus to other cats.

Professor of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine Yoshihiro Kawaoka led the study, in which researchers administered to three cats SARS-CoV-2 isolated from a human patient. The following day, the researchers swabbed the nasal passages of the cats and were able to detect the virus in two of the animals. Within three days, they detected the virus in all of the cats.

The day after the researchers administered virus to the first three cats, they placed another cat in each of their cages. Researchers did not administer SARS-CoV-2 virus to these cats.

Each day, the researchers took nasal and rectal swabs from all six cats to assess them for the presence of the virus. Within two days, one of the previously uninfected cats was shedding virus, detected in the nasal swab, and within six days, all of the cats were shedding virus. None of the rectal swabs contained virus.

Each cat shed SARS-CoV-2 from their nasal passages for up to six days. The virus was not lethal and none of the cats showed signs of illness. All of the cats ultimately cleared the virus.

“That was a major finding for us — the cats did not have symptoms,” says Kawaoka, who also holds a faculty appointment at the University of Tokyo. Kawaoka is also helping lead an effort to create a human COVID-19 vaccine called CoroFlu.

The findings suggest cats may be capable of becoming infected with the virus when exposed to people or other cats positive for SARS-CoV-2. It follows a study published in Science by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences that also showed cats (and ferrets) could become infected with and potentially transmit the virus. The virus is known to be transmitted in humans through contact with respiratory droplets and saliva.

“It’s something for people to keep in mind,” says Peter Halfmann, a research professor at UW–Madison who helped lead the study. “If they are quarantined in their house and are worried about passing COVID-19 to children and spouses, they should also worry about giving it to their animals.”

Both researchers advise that people with symptoms of COVID-19 avoid contact with cats. They also advise cat owners to keep their pets indoors, in order to limit the contact their cats have with other people and animals.

Read the full article HERE


CDC Guidance for Veterinarians

excerpt from the CDC article for veterinarians which was updated 5/12/2020

What do we currently know about animals and COVID-19?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, is thought to be spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. There are also reports that people may be able to spread the virus while pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. We are still learning about this novel zoonotic virus, and it appears that in some rare situations, human to animal transmission can occur.

CDC is aware of a small number animals, including dogs and cats, reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 after close contact with people with COVID-19. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and CDC recently reported confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2 in two pet cats with mild respiratory illness in New York, which were the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in companion animals in the United States. Both cats are expected to recover. The cats had close contact with people confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, suggesting human-to-cat spread. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by SARS-CoV-2.


Clinical signs in animals

The clinical spectrum of illness for the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains largely undefined in animals. Companion animals may present with respiratory or gastrointestinal clinical signs based on the presentation of other coronaviruses more commonly found in animals as well as other emerging coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-1 infection.

Clinical signs more likely to be compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian animals may include a combination of the following:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Ocular discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Read the full article HERE


Testing Guidelines

excerpt from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection as of 4/27/2020

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), in partnership with the Department of Health Services (DHS), provides the following guidance for testing animals for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19). Currently, routine testing of animals is not recommended, and any tests done on animals will be approved on a case-by-case basis. Human-to-animal transmission events are believed to be rare, and there is no specific treatment for animals diagnosed with a SARS-CoV-2 infection, so testing will not alter clinical management. Decisions to test animals for SARS-CoV-2 will be made using a One Health approach.

Owner advice and education regarding care for animals during the COVID-19 outbreak can and should be provided regardless of testing decisions. Testing of animals requires use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which is in limited supply. Across the U.S., animals are only being tested in rare circumstances. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released guidance for evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 testing in animals. Wisconsin animal and public health officials will use the criteria outlined by our federal partners as one component of the decision making process. Other considerations include local/state resources needed for sample collection; if there is a cluster of animal illnesses; if the animal was exposed to a cluster of human illnesses; and if other diagnostic testing has been performed.


Criteria for Considering Laboratory Testing for SARS-CoV-2 in Animals

  1. Animals in a mass care or group setting (e.g., animal shelter, boarding facility, animal feeding operation, zoo) where there is a cluster of animals showing clinical signs of a new concerning illness that may be compatible* with a SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  2. An animal that has had exposure to a setting or environment that is considered high risk for human COVID-19 exposures/outbreaks, such as a nursing home or other communal residence setting, AND the animal has clinical signs of a new concerning illness that may be compatible* with a SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  3. The animal is threatened, endangered, or an otherwise imperiled/rare animal in a rehabilitation or zoological facility and has had a possible exposure to SARS-CoV-2 through an infected person or animal. Testing may be considered with or without clinical signs of a new concerning illness that may be compatible* with a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  4. An animal that has had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19, AND the animal has clinical signs of a new concerning illness that may be compatible* with a SARS-CoV-2 infections.

*The clinical spectrum of illness for SARS-CoV-2 remains largely undefined in animals. Clinical signs more likely to be compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian animals may include: fever, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Veterinarians should first conduct a thorough diagnostic work up to rule out more common causes of the illness.

Read the full article HERE


Additional Resources and Information