***Updated 4/30/2020***

Our country is in a trying time, fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are all in novel territory as schools, bars, restaurants, and many businesses have closed in Louisville, Prospect, Crestwood, Oldham County, and across the state of Kentucky. Here at Dogwood Veterinary Clinic, we are offering drop-offs, pet transportation for sick pets, house calls, and medication delivery in order to accommodate our clients during this time of social distancing. With this virus raising so many questions, we would like to share with you some information about COVID-19 and animals, as well as other coronaviruses that affect animals.

Do I need to worry about my pets getting COVID-19?

Many pet owners wonder if their pets can get COVID-19. According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) there is limited evidence that animals can be infected with this strain. Currently the number of human cases is over 2.5 million worldwide, and there have only been 6 animals that have tested positive for the disease and these positive tests were confirmed. All but one of these animals had known exposure to a human infected with COVID-19. Three of these animals showed mild clinical signs and are expected to make full recoveries. The other animals did not show any clinical symptoms. There is currently no evidence of animals being able to transmit it to humans by shedding the virus. In the words of the AVMA, “out of an abundance of caution,” the AVMA recommends limiting contact with animals if you are infected with the virus until we know more about it. In addition, the CDC now recommends extending social distancing guidelines to include pets. Simply prevent your pet from interacting with anyone who is not within your household and if possible, keep cats inside. When this blog was first posted we warned that pets may be fomites for the disease.  However now, according to the CDC, “there is no evidence that viruses, including this virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin, fur or hair of pets”. If you do become sick, isolate from your pet as you would from members of your family and try to let someone else in the household care for the pet if possible. If that is not possible, just wear a mask when caring for your pet, wash your hands before and after any interaction, provide basic care, and do not share food, hug or kiss them.

Are there other types of coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses with many different species-specific strains that affect various species of animals. There are coronaviruses that affect dogs, cats, cattle, horses, chickens, pigs, and turkeys. The clinical signs are usually respiratory or gastrointestinal in nature. Coronaviruses readily mutate, which leads to the emergence of different strains. Since there is far too much information to discuss the disease caused by coronavirus in each of these species, we will share briefly about coronaviruses in cats and dogs.

Canine coronavirus

The canine enteric coronavirus, abbreviated CECoV, can cause gastrointestinal disease in dogs. Most commonly, infection with CECoV is asymptomatic. The disease has been isolated in both normal dogs and dogs with diarrhea. Puppies are most commonly affected, and if they show clinical signs, they may experience lethargy, mild diarrhea, and inappetence. Vaccination for canine enteric coronavirus is available but is not currently recommended as infections usually cause subclinical and self-limiting disease.

There is also a canine respiratory coronavirus, CRCoV, this is a completely different strain of coronavirus than COVID-19 but shows similar signs in dogs such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. The clinical signs are usually mild. This virus is a part of what we call the canine kennel cough complex, when pets get co-infections with several pathogens causing upper respiratory signs. Pathogens that may be involved are bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza, herpes virus, streptococcus zooepidemicus, mycoplasma, and adenovirus. Canine influenza also causes upper respiratory signs, but is considered separate from the canine kennel cough complex, as it can cause more systemic disease.

Feline coronavirus

Cats can also be infected with coronavirus that causes gastrointestinal signs called feline enteric coronavirus, FECoV. Like the canine form, this virus usually causes mild and self-limiting symptoms. Feline infectious peritonitis, FIP, is a mutation of this virus that causes much more severe disease. Not all cats with FECoV will end up with FIP. The virus does not always mutate, and some cats are able to mount an effective immune response to clear the virus. However, if a pet can clear the virus, they will do so prior to the initiation of clinical signs. There are two forms of FIP, the effusive or granulomatous, otherwise known as wet and dry. The wet form causes accumulations of fluid in the pleural space, the space around the lungs or abdomen and can result in difficulty breathing or abdominal distention. “The dry form causes granulomas – a mass that forms as a result of inflammation – to form in single or multiple organs, including the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, nervous system, or in the eyes. FIP is progressive and fatal. Cats that are exposed to many other cats, such as feral cats, are most at risk. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine at this time. There is evidence that concurrent disease can make pets more susceptible to this disease. Therefore, limiting your cat’s exposure to other cats, twice annual veterinary exams, and performing recommended testing to ensure your pet is not affected with underlying disease is currently the best way to prevent your cat from developing this disease.

We hope you learned something new about Coronaviruses and animals and that you have been reassured that your pets are safe from COVID-19. We are thinking of and praying for our country and our world as we combat this highly contagious virus. For detailed instructions of what you can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov. If you have any questions about our services and how we can accommodate you during this time of social distancing, we are here in Louisville, Kentucky, please contact our hospital. You can find our contact information here.