As you may have recently heard in the news, a tiger in the Bronx zoo became mildly ill and tested positive for COVID-19. There have also been media reports about a small study just published suggesting that domestic cats are susceptible. Dogs may be vulnerable too, but the evidence points to this being less likely. In this study, a few cats and kittens were injected with mega doses of the virus, contracted the disease and infected other cats.
Understandably, these stories are adding to the confusion and worry about how to keep ourselves and our animals safe. But neither the zoo situation nor recent studies replicate real-world situations relating to our companion animals, and there is no cause for alarm.
This news is not surprising. COVID-19 is a new virus but is part of a family of corona virus diseases. Many different corona viruses affect both people and animals. In fact, one of the treatments used on cats with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), caused by a corona virus, is being tested for possible efficacy in treating COVID-19 in humans.
We also know that COVID-19 has spread around the world, and there has been almost no evidence of pets getting sick. Of the over 1.6 million confirmed human cases, there was one story about a cat in Belgium becoming ill and a report on two dogs in China testing positive. But, there has not been one reported case to date of pets transmitting the disease to humans. Additionally, many experts believe pets, if infected, will not suffer the same severe symptoms seen in some people and will likely be "dead-end" hosts.
Of course, there has also been minimal testing, and the science is just emerging, so we want to be cautious and attentive to new information about how this global pandemic might impact the animal population.