COVID-19 and Companion Pets

COVID-19 and Companion Pets

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COVID-19 and Companion Pets

In the wake of the news about a dog from Hong Kong possibly having COVID-19, Dr. Dodds and Hemopet have received many emails asking us if our companion pets are safe. Since then, follow up confirmatory testing on this dog was negative, as predicted.

In times of crisis like this, we beg you to listen to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) regarding companion pets and COVID-19.

Please see the excerpts below from the OIE, AVMA and WSAVA. To review the full statements, please click on the link noted at the bottom of each statements.

OIE Statement as of March 14, 2020

What do we know about COVID-19 virus and companion animals?

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.

The Veterinary Services of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China reported to OIE evidence that a dog had tested positive to the COVID-19 virus following close exposure to its owners who were sick with COVID-19 – see Immediate Notification (01/03/2020) and Follow-up report no.1 (09/03/2020). The test, conducted by real time PCR, showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, but the dog was not showing and has not shown any clinical signs of the disease.

There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals might be affected by COVID-19 virus. The OIE will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

There is no evidence to support restrictions to movement or trade of companion animals.

What precautionary measures should be taken by owners when companion or other animals have close contact with humans sick or suspected with COVID-19?

There have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease. However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (known as zoonotic diseases), it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with other people and companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.

When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing, preferably with hot soapy water, before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.

When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a properly fitted face mask whenever possible.

OIE

AVMA as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Q: Can SARS-CoV-2 infect pets?

A: Currently, there is no evidence that pets can become sick. Infectious disease experts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people. More investigation is underway and as we learn more, we will update you.

However, because animals can spread other diseases to people and people can also spread diseases to animals, it’s a good idea to always wash your hands as indicated above before and after interacting with animals.

AVMA

AVMA on Veterinary Medications

Potential supply chain effects

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised concern about potential medical supply issues, including both pharmaceuticals and medical products such as personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, gowns) and surgical drapes. No current shortages are reported by any of the 32 animal drug companies that make finished drugs or source active pharmaceutical ingredients in China for the U.S. market, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, six of the firms have indicated that they see supply chain disruptions that soon could lead to shortages.

AVMA

Canine Coronavirus Vaccine – Would it help?

No. No. No.

From the WSAVA Statement on March 7, 2020:

Should veterinarians start to vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirus because of the risk of SARSCov-2?

The canine coronavirus vaccines available in some global markets are intended to protect against enteric coronavirus infection and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in the dog. [Information from the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group].

WSAVA

Commentary

Coronaviruses are zoonotic – meaning they jump between species. Scientists are currently racing to find out the animal origin of the novel COVID-19 disease in humans, that is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first we heard was from two species of snakes, the Bungarus multicinctus (the many-banded krait) and Naja atra (the Chinese cobra). This was doubted by virologists around the globe. Virologist Paulo Eduardo Brandão – who has been specifically researching whether or not snakes can become infected with coronaviruses – simply said there is no supportive evidence to date.

In mid-February, we heard that ant-eating pangolins smuggled into China might be the origin. While these animals are considered better contenders as the source by some researchers, the whole genetic match between the coronavirus circulating within the pangolin population is not close enough to that in the human population.

Thus far, the closest match identified came from bats, but the evidence suggests that an intermediate source between the bat and the human is needed. Indeed, research suggests that Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has an intermediate source in camels. The 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak is believed to be bat to civet cat to human transmission.

Clearly, this is a rapidly evolving situation. The best thing to do is keep calm.

Suggestions

We all play a role in personal and community safety. The best approach is to prepare, but not to panic as it raises stress levels that contribute to a reduction in immune function. A healthy immune system is key to recovery against COVID-19.

For a simple and detailed guideline that includes even tips on how to dilute bleach to clean surfaces, please visit the CDC’s page “How to Protect Yourself”.

In the meantime, Hemopet will keep you up-to-date on the latest information regarding companion pets as information about this virus becomes available and verified.

References

Brulliard, Karin. “Dog with ‘Low-Level’ Coronavirus Infection Remains Quarantined after Blood Test, Hong Kong Officials Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Mar. 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/03/13/dogs-pets-coronavirus/.

Callaway, Ewen, and David Cyranoski. “Why Snakes Probably Aren’t Spreading the New China Virus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 23 Jan. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00180-8.

Coronavirus. World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.

Cyranoski, David. “Mystery Deepens over Animal Source of Coronavirus.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 26 Feb. 2020, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00548-w.

Dodds, Jean. “How Does Stress Affect a Dog’s Long-Term Health?” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 9 Mar. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/does-stress-affect-a-dog-long-term-health/.

Dodds, Jean. “The Wuhan Coronavirus and Companion Pets.” Pet Health Resources Blog, Hemopet, 26 Jan. 2020, https://www.hemopet.org/the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-companion-pets-2019-ncov/.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). World Health Organization, 11 Mar. 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-(mers-cov).

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). World Health Organization, 26 Apr. 2012, https://www.who.int/ith/diseases/sars/en/.

Shared with permission from W. Jean Dodds, DVM

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Your cat and the flu

Your cat and the flu

Let’s dive into this subject and find the many common myths and misconceptions out there regarding this very subject.  We want to get down to the nitty-gritty of what our cats can catch from us and what we can give to them.  Because let’s face it, we love to snuggle and stay warm under our cozy blankets when sick.  This is an open invite for our cats to want to come and snuggle in with us.  But, is it really healthy for us to be snuggling with our four-legged friends?  Or could we pass this human flu onto our cat?  That is the very thing we want to explore today, Your cat and the flu.

Studies have shown that you cannot catch a cat’s flu.  A cat’s flu is not actually caused by the influenza virus but is a viral infection.  The flu that humans get is caused by influenza A, B, and C.  However, the cat flu is still a virus, meaning that antibiotics will not help treat it.  Some people don’t understand the difference between a virus and a bacterial infection.  A virus is not treatable by antibiotics.

your cat and the flu

Your cat can catch your flu!

cat, hygene, flu

It is thought that our animals can catch our diseases.  In fact, that is why there are so many mutations of a virus.  While you are down with the flu, you should avoid the cat as much as you avoid other family and friends.  This will help you not spread the virus from you to your cat.

However, there is yet another step that you might consider as well, this is that the cat’s fur could carry the virus to other family members as well.  Think about it, when you sneeze or rub your eyes, you could be picking up the virus and potentially putting it on the cat.  It is important that you are constantly washing your hands and avoiding contact with your cat.  Your cat and the flu are not a good mixture.  However, it is hard sometimes to get the cat to understand.  Especially if you are an on the go person that is now laying there, basically asking for them to lay on you.

Keep hydrated

Typically, your cat’s flu and your flu have pretty much the same symptoms.  For the most part, you will just need to stay in and rest.  Be sure stay hydrated and get plenty of fluids and always have fresh water out for your cat as well.  To get even more fluids into them, you might moisten their food too.  Sometimes the flu can turn into a bacterial infection such as pneumonia or a sinus infection.  This typically is followed up by green phlegm in both you and your cat.  When looking at your cat and the flu, these are some similarities.  If the cat has green phlegm, this is a good indication that you should probably see the vet.  Bacterial infections can be taken care of with antibiotics.

Make sure you know who the cat has been in contact with.  It may not have been with you. In fact, they may not have had contact with anyone but you.  However, we carry germs from the outside in on our clothing and shoes.  These germs can reach your cat, but they simply coexist with you.  This is not to make you paranoid, but just aware.  There are many reasons for a cat to get sick and just because they didn’t seem exposed, they certainly could have been.

american shorthair hydrating

Good Hygiene is important!

cat, hygene, flu

Cat flu comes from other cats.  However, that doesn’t mean that your cat has to be exposed to other cats.  In fact, like all flu cases, the cat could catch it from being around you.  And, some cats that are carriers of the disease have no symptoms at all.  This is important to note so you can further understand your cat and the flu.  Cats release the flu bug in tears, saliva, nasal secretions and even in their urine.  It can survive in most environments for up to a week.  Because it is transmitted by saliva, most cats that are sick will have the virus on their fur.  Be sure to always wash your hands well before touching another cat.   When looking for signs notice there are similarities to spreading the disease.  Always wash the hands well and often.  And, washing clothing is also important.  Good hygiene isn’t just for the vain but it is to keep you and those around you healthy.

To read more about caring for your American Shorthair cat click here.

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Owning a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke!

Owning a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke!

american shorthair cat can reduce the risk of heart attack

According to researchers, more than 1/3 of adults can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attacks if they own a cat. Scientists did a study on over 4000 American adults between the ages of 30 and 75 over a period of 10 years of which half owned cats. They discovered that these owners had less anxiety and stress which contributed in reducing the chances or heart failure or stroke. The scientists also discovered that it was also helpful in reducing blood pressure.

This study was presented in a stroke conference in New Orleans at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference. The study took account other factors contributing to heart failure or stroke such as high cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes. The scientists who carried out the study, Professor Adnan Qureshi, from the University of Minnesota, said he was surprised by the findings. He quoted “the logical explanation may be the fact that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease.”

Doctor Qureshi believes that stroking the cat could cut the level of stress related hormones in the blood. Reducing stress is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering the blood pressure and reducing the heart rate. So the news are good, a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack.

Cat owners have less stress!

According to researcher Farhan Siddiq, MD, of the University of Minnesota says he thinks that cat lovers share personality characteristic’s such as low stress and anxiety levels that protect them against heart disease and stroke, he believes that dog owners also share the same characteristics.

Daniel Lackland, MD, a stroke expert of the University of South Carolina in Charleston, agrees that “cats and dogs are good, and they make you feel better.”  Dr. Lackland stresses however “the findings should not detract from the critical value of controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.“

Kathy Cole, a clinical nurse at the University of California Los Angeles Center and School of Nursing said, “she was not surprised by the findings.” Miss Cole has always believed that cat can reduce the risk of heart attack and she presented these results in 2005 to the American Heart Association, and stated, “I would be inclined to think that any animal that is perceived as meaningful to a person in a positive way would have health benefits.”

Miss Cole also mentioned other research that suggested that pets create a calming effect. She stated that, “unfortunately, some of these benefits are not available to some potential heart patients who live-in low-cost apartments or nursing homes.”

It is currently estimated that there are over 72 million pet dogs and over 82 million pet cats in the US, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Veterinary experts believe however that cats can bring more stress relief than dogs; they believe this because cats are for the most part a lap animal that want to be petted which brings a reduction in stress that can lead to low blood pressure.

american shorthair kitten lap cat

Dogs however can increase the stress level of the owner because they require work, they demand attention, they want to be taken for a walk, they need to be fed on a routine while cats practically take care of themselves.

Should you go out and buy a cat or a dog in order to reduce your chances of heart attack?

Of course, researchers believe that more research is needed.

At Milla’s Kats, we go out of our way in raising our American Shorthair kittens to be lap cats. We believe that this is crucial for both the kitten and family and also believe that a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack. The benefits of cat ownership continue to amaze us and we see their benefit all the time.

Beside owning a cat or a dog to reduce stress, there are many other things you can do to reduce your stress, listen to music, read a book, sit on the beach and listen to the waves crashing, snuggle your significant other. Here is a great link A Guide to a Stress Free Day with more suggestions.

SOURCES:
International Stroke Conference 2008, New Orleans.
Farhan Siddiq, MD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Daniel Lackland, MD, professor of epidemiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
US News & World Report, ABC News.

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