Researchers Investigate Pets and People Coronavirus Connection

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
When COVID-19 cases began to take the world over, the first thought of many pet parents was, “How will this affect my pet?” Now, researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University are looking to answer that question more definitively.

The researchers at the universities are looking to see whether or not animals truly are ‘dead-end’ hosts, in order to give more accurate information about how to interact with pets, as well as to ward off the poor treatment and surrendering animals out of fear.

Dr. Katie Kuehl is with Washington State University’s Veterinary Clinical Sciences program. In an interview with The Seattle Times, she says that information about companion animals contracting the virus indicates that they are a dead-end host. That means that once they catch it, it doesn’t spread past them. She says that to better keep animals and families safe, understanding this more and having more detailed information would help.

Related: How To Groom Your Dog at Home

When the pandemic first began, people worried not only about giving the coronavirus to their pets, but also whether they could contract it from them. The concern about cross-contamination at dog parks or even at the vet’s office/kennels was valid. People also worried about how asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus could affect companion pets.

Initially, experts believed we couldn’t be infected by nor infect our pets. As a few cases of animals showed positive results, however, some again began worrying about risk to pets and people. Sadly, the risks also included abandonment, domestic violence and opportunistic adoption in addition to the disease itself.

As we’ve learned more, it turns out that we are more likely a danger to our pets than they are to us with regard to the transmission of the virus, and the researchers in Washington want to see how human lives and animal lives intersect when it comes to the virus.

Related: Post Quarantine: How To Get Your Pet Into a Routine As You Head Back To Work

Their study will look at samples from at least 100 companion animals–ferrets, dogs, cats and hamsters–in homes where one or more people tested positive for COVID-19. They’ll look at how much time humans spend with their animals, as well as whether they allowed their pets to sleep with them, eat from their plates and so on. They’ll also test the animals for positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Current recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association does not suggest routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, as there is no evidence that the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 is significant.

Until more is known, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention does offer guidelines about pet/human interactions in this day and age, as well as how to protect our pets best.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis