This is the first time a pet has shown symptoms of the new coronavirus. Experts point out, however, that pets are not vectors of the disease.
A cat in Belgium became the first feline to test positive for Sars-CoV-2, the new coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 disease. According to the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC), responsible for animal health in the country, the virus was detected in the animal’s feces and vomit, probably infected by her owner, who tested positive for the disease after spending a season in Italy.
“Recently, the veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been detected in a cat. The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did,” said Steven Van Gucht, a professor who studied the case, to the Belgian newspaper The Brussels Times.
This is the third time that the coronavirus has been detected in pets – the same has happened with two dogs living in Hong Kong, China, but the dogs have shown no symptoms of the disease. The feline, however, had diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty breathing – what happened to the animal had not been released to the press, until now.
Experts are not sure how to explain how the infection occurred, but they say that there is no reason for pet owners to worry. “We want to emphasize that this is an isolated case. Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around,” said Van Gucht. “There are no indications that this is common. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small.”
The scientist pointed out that a pet can only transmit the disease if an infected person touches it and then it is touched by another individual. Still, the National Animal Protection Council of the United States told The Brussels Times that “animals are not vectors of the epidemic, so there is no reason to abandon them.”
The guidance of health professionals is that if someone who is sick has come into contact with the pet, you should clean your hands before and after petting the animal and avoid touching the nose and mouth. Cleaning the dog or cat is also recommended – but only with pet-friendly products.
“It is especially important not to clean the domestic animal with disinfectant products, hydroalcoholic gel, alcohol and bleach,” writes the FASFC on its website. “This can cause burns and even poison your pet.”