WSAVA webinar reports no evidence of coronavirus transmission from companion animal to human

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companion animal SARS-CoV-2
Dr Michael Lappin

WSAVA webinar speakers have urged kindness to companion animals testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and stressed the importance of prioritising preventive healthcare during the pandemic.

During a recent WSAVA webinar on 15 September, speakers urged veterinarians to encourage owners to treat companion animals testing positive for SARS-Cov-2 with kindness and not to relinquish them.  

During his update on companion animal SARS-CoV-2, Dr Michael Lappin, chair of the WSAVA’s One Health Committee, confirmed that the virus is a reverse zoonoses with infected humans passing it to companion animals in the very few cases that have been reported worldwide. Infected animals have displayed only mild symptoms and there is no evidence of transmission from a companion animal to a new human.

Dr Lappin further confirmed that while the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 28,000,000 confirmed cases in humans, including more than 900,000 deaths, the number of cases in companion animals tracked by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) remains tiny.

He also reported that outbreaks on mink farms in the Netherlands and USA earlier this year were likely to have been caused by human transmission. While more dogs, cats and ferrets would undoubtedly test positive over time, he reminded veterinarians to remember the context and that numbers overall remain very small.

In terms of how COVID-19 actually affects companion animals, he said that experimental studies at Colorado State University had shown that cats showed no signs, shed the virus for a short period only, could transmit the disease to other cats and demonstrated a robust antibody response. 

Dogs showed no signs, did not shed live virus and also demonstrated a robust antibody response. He added that further data was being collected to explore whether the clinical illness in naturally infected dogs or cats is common or important and that it is as yet unclear whether these animals require specific treatment.

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