Virologist: Pets Really Can Catch Coronavirus

Thomas Vahlenkamp. Photo: Swen Reichhold, Leipzig University

Thomas Vahlenkamp. Photo: Swen Reichhold, Leipzig University

What three months ago seemed unlikely, has now been confirmed: pets can also become infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Examples have been recorded worldwide. However, the number of cases is very small and so far only dogs, cats, mink and ferrets have been found to be affected. According to Professor Thomas Vahlenkamp, Director of the Institute of Virology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Leipzig University, experiments were conducted to deliberately infect animals including dogs and cats with the virus. While dogs displayed no symptoms, cats - similar to human patients - showed signs of respiratory problems and in some cases diarrhoea.

“It seems that coronavirus can replicate in cats,” said Vahlenkamp. Similar reports have emerged from operators of mink farms in the Netherlands and Denmark, where the animals have shown respiratory problems and some have even died. “While infections are possible, they occur very rarely and have always been associated with a human case,” said the expert. So if dog or cat owners are infected with the novel coronavirus, there is also a risk of infection for their pets. However, there are no confirmed cases anywhere in the world of an infected animal having infected a human being. If you keep several dogs and cats, it is important to know that the animals can also infect each other.

“But that shouldn’t be a cause for concern among dog and cat owners,” says Vahlenkamp. He added that the number of cases is extremely small. There have been isolated examples of such infections in countries including France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, China and the US. Tigers have also been infected in a New York zoo - possibly after catching the virus from visitors or keepers. Researchers at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China carried out the experimental studies.

If dog and cat owners want to be on the safe side, they can have their pet tested for COVID-19 - but they have to pay for the test themselves. These tests are also available at Leipzig University’s Institute of Virology.

Susann Huster


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