Orchard Vet's Blog

Coronavirus advice for pet owners


Reports have emerged that officials in both China and Russia are culling small animals, including strays, in response to the spread of coronavirus (known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCOV). British tabloids and animal rights organisations have been quick to reproduce these stories but we hope they are unsubstantiated. Certainly they have been less eager to rehearse the efforts of Chinese animal rescue centres to help pets isolated by the lockdown of infected cities.

Coronavirus is a severe lung disease that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year. Symptoms begin with a fever and dry cough, and in serious cases lead to shortness of breath that can require hospitalisation. To date more than 78,000 people have been infected including 15 in the UK, with 2,700 fatalities.

Although the origins of the virus are thought to be zoonotic, that is passed from an animal to a human, there is no scientific evidence that cats or dogs can pass it on to their owners or one another. And while Hong Kong authorities have found traces of the COVID-19 in nasal and oral samples from a Pomeranian today, the dog had no symptoms. Until further tests are being conducted, there remains no firm evidence that pets can contract COVID-19.

The World Small Animal Vetrinary Association acknowledges that this situation could change and advises that if your pet becomes ill, and was around a person with coronavirus, you should first contact your vet by phone and tell them that the animal may have had contact with someone with COVID-19. Coronaviruses are a large family and other forms of it have passed between animals and people. This would, however, be headline news for COVID-19 - the virus is currently spreading only from person to person. §