We’re into our second year, continuing to deal with the ever-changing Covid, and all that entails. Not to mention all of the confusion that still seems to surround this strange virus, including what animals can get Covid.
I recall learning about the first animal in the U.S. that contracted this disease. It was a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in March 2020. And since then, many more animals have gotten infected. Moreover, recently in December 2021, two hippos tested positive for the virus at a Belgian Zoo. Even though their symptoms were reportedly mild, they are thought to be the first of their species to get Covid.
What are Coronaviruses
Infectious coronaviruses transmit diseases to many species of birds and mammals, which include us. And there are hundreds of them that are spread around, mainly by animals like camels, bats, cats, and pigs. However, human coronaviruses were first observed in the 1960s and are divided into four main sections. Additionally, since 2019 and Covid, seven coronaviruses can now infect people. Thus, coronaviruses are just a big family of viruses that cause sickness and illness. And the symptoms can range from mild, like a cold, to more severe.
The most common coronavirus(es) that your pet dog or cat could get is CCoV for dogs, and FCoV for cats. And the symptoms primarily involve GI problems. Though, these CV aren’t the same as Covid. But again, they are in the same family. Remember, SARS-CoV-2 was a brand new coronavirus at the end of 2019 and early 2020. It’s still new.
Furthermore, poultry have their own coronaviruses, generally from group 3. Also, the most common CV in fowl is IBV or infectious bronchitis. So, you see that, in just these 3 examples, there are many CV with varying symptoms, some affect the GI, while others affect the respiratory system.
So What Other Animals Can Get Covid
Now that I’ve covered some basics, let’s discuss the novel coronavirus, that infects both people and animals. To date, the species that have been infected with Covid-19 are:
- snow leopards
- a cougar
- a ferret
- fishing cat
- **white-tailed deer
The one thing the majority of these animals have in common is they are carnivoran, which isn’t the same as being a carnivore. Carnivoran mammals are placental, mostly consume meat, but are quite diverse. However, this point regarding Covid isn’t conclusive, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s just one fact of many, which keeps evolving.
Also, most of these animals don’t get very sick, with some exceptions. Buddy, the first U.S. dog confirmed to have Covid, died in July 2021. And an unnamed cat in Pennsylvania was put down in October 2020 after suffering respiratory distress. Buddy reportedly had lymphoma, and the cat in Pennsylvania was 16 years old.
Can You Transmit Covid to Your Pet
In case you don’t know, yes, if you or someone in your home has Covid, and gets cuddly with your pet, your pet can get infected. However, it’s not guaranteed. I think the risk of transmission, and definitely illness, is possibly similar to our own risk.
For example, my 19 year old had Covid around the holidays. But we didn’t make her isolate away from us. Although she did have to wear a mask and practice routine hygiene, like hand washing, or use a hand sanitizer if she couldn’t wash her hands. Also, neither our animals nor any of the other humans in my house got sick or infected. And we got tested. However, there’s definitely still a lot we don’t know.
Can Your Pet Transmit Covid to You
As of this publishing, there have been no pet zoonotic transmissions of Covid. But, with that being said, in 2020, the virus did break out on 2 mink farms in the Netherlands. It ended up spreading to 70 farms, leading to the culling of millions of mink. The mink developed respiratory symptoms and the virus mutated, infecting the workers on the farms.
Further, it’s noteworthy to mention that white-tailed deer have been testing positive for Covid, yet not dying. And still the virus is spreading among deer, leading many to wonder if they are an animal reservoir for the illness. Besides, it is believed that Covid-19 originated in bats. However, as of yet, no one knows the intermediate animal that spread the virus from bats to people.
Thankfully, so far there have been no reports of Covid-19 in poultry. Birds have enough to worry about as it is. Avian flu probably being the biggest.
What to do if You Think Your Pet is Infected with Covid
Once again, most animals that get infected with the virus don’t get seriously ill. And some might not have any symptoms at all. However, since it’s possible for animals to contract the virus, symptoms they could exhibit are:
- trouble breathing
- lack of energy
- runny nose
- eye discharge
- and/or diarrhea
So, if your pet is ill, and you’re concerned it might be Covid, the CDC advises you to call your veterinarian. And, if you’re infected with the virus, and your pet gets sick, the CDC cautions NOT TO TAKE YOUR PET TO THE VET YOURSELF. However, call your vet to let them know you have the virus; they might offer Telehealth for your pet or other options. Read here for some more guidelines from the CDC regarding Covid and your pet.
Important Reminders Concerning Wildlife
Even considering the mutation and spread of the virus from mink populations back to humans, the risk remains low for animal to human transmission. Therefore, there’s no need to abandon or mistreat wild animals. But we should be cautious around them all the same. Some other reminders are:
- Don’t feed wild animals or touch their droppings.
- Maintain a safe distance from wild animals; and keep your pets at a safe distance from them too.
- Wash your hands after playing or working outside.
- Don’t directly interact with abandoned animals, because parents typically return.
- DON’T touch or get close to sick or dead animals.
- And if eating game meat, read your state’s wildlife agency guidelines.
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