Pets are “much more likely” to catch the new coronavirus COVID-19 disease from humans than to infect their owners, according to a recent Science magazine report.
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“Almost all pets that have tested positive have been in contact with infected humans,” Chief Veterinary Medical Officer at the University of California, Davis Jane Skyes was quoted as saying.
According to the report, “A genetic study of the viral sequences in the first two dogs known to have COVID-19 indicates they caught it from their owners.”
The report also mentioned tigers and lions who were infected at the Bronx Zoo in New York City in April in which it appeared that the animals contracted the virus from humans.
Even though researchers warn that there was “limited testing” since most pets that were tested lived with humans who were positive for the virus, “most researchers think pets pose little risk to people – and to other pets as well.”
Skyes added that “everything we’ve learned so far suggests that it’s unlikely that pets are a significant source of transmission,” noting that multiple reports show that households had one pet test positive for COVID-19 while others were unaffected.
Science magazine also reported that the “few studies” that showed cats can transmit the virus to other cats were all conducted in artificial laboratory settings, meaning there is no significant evidence that cats naturally infected other cats.
There is also no clear evidence on how many pets have been infected with the virus. However, an estimated 3 to 4 percent of cats and dogs had been exposed to the virus in Italy “at the height of the pandemic there – comparable to the rate among people,” Science magazine reported citing a serological preprint.
COVID-19 symptoms in pets
If pets do become infected with the new coronavirus, they are likely to experience “mild to nonexistent” symptoms, according to Science Magazine.
A pet health insurance company reported that “it has not seen an increase in respiratory claims – or any other type of health claim [in pets] – since the pandemic began.”
According to two studies, Science magazine reported that cats are unlikely to show symptoms.
“My gut sense is that [the disease is] much more minor that we’re seeing in people,” Skyes was quoted as saying.
However, some scientists suggested that pets not showing symptoms could mean they are “silent transmitters of the virus,” according to Science magazine. The report however added that “there’s no direct evidence of this.”