Can dogs and cats get the coronavirus? Let us find out!
Coronaviruses are viruses that can cause a number of different infectious diseases in both humans and animals. In humans they sometimes cause common colds. However, some strains of coronaviruses can cause serious or even life-threatening diseases. This is currently demonstrated by the example of the novel coronavirus “SARS-CoV-2”, which is the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 – also known as COVID-19. This is a human disease that can be accompanied by severe pneumonia.
In dogs and cats, other corona strains are responsible for a disease. These strains are species-specific, meaning that they cause infections in a particular species. In dogs, for example, an infection with the Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) typically leads to diarrhoea. In cats a similar disease is caused by the Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV). Both dogs and cats have a good chance of recovery if infected with these pathogens. The situation is different with the so-called Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV). This is a modified (mutated) form of the FECV, which leads to a dangerous peritonitis in cats, the so-called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).
Can dogs and cats get COVID-19?
In general, some corona strains can be transmitted between animals and humans. According to current knowledge, this does not apply to the COVID-19 pathogen. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there is currently no evidence that pets can be infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Are dogs and cats involved in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2?
There is currently no evidence that dogs and cats could be involved in the spread of COVID-19. However, the OIE advises that appropriate hygiene measures should be taken when handling pets if the owners of these animals are infected with COVID-19. The reason for this recommendation is that transmission from humans to animals cannot yet be completely excluded.
What do I have to consider if I am sick with COVID-19 myself?
The OIE publishes the following recommendations on its website: Persons suffering from COVID-19 should limit contact with their pets as much as possible and leave the care of their pets to another person. However, if you cannot avoid contact with your own pet, you should at least follow the following rules:
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after contact with your pet, its food and accessories.
Avoid close physical contact with your pet (e.g. do not kiss them).
Do not let your pet lick you.
Do not share food with your pet.
Wear a protective mask if necessary.
So the good news is that, according to current knowledge, dogs and cats cannot get COVID-19. However, this does not mean that they are generally protected against corona viruses.
The Canine Coronavirus
A dog can usually become infected with CCoV through contaminated faeces. Most diseases occur in dogs kept in kennels. However, dogs kept individually are rarely infected. Infection occurs regardless of age. Puppies are particularly at risk, however, and can even die without treatment.
In older pets, however, the disease usually progresses slightly. Besides diarrhoea, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and slight fever can occur. The veterinarian makes the diagnosis based on the course of the disease and the nature of the faeces. A final diagnosis is made by detecting the pathogen in the faeces of the sick dog. As a treatment it is usually sufficient to treat the symptoms. If the dog loses a lot of fluid, the veterinarian will give him an infusion.
The Feline Coronavirus
Cats are infected with Feline Coronavirus via the mouth or respiratory tract. The viruses are often excreted in the faeces or saliva of the animals.
The Feline Enteric Coronavirus (FECV)
After an infection with FECV, the viruses multiply in the cat’s intestines. Especially cat puppies suffer from slimy diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Deaths are rare and the animals usually respond well to therapy that treats only the symptoms. In contrast to kittens, adult cats often show no signs of disease after an infection.
The Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV)
In the case of FIPV, the pathogen does not remain in the cat’s intestine, but leads to a so-called systemic infection. This means that the viruses spread through the blood throughout the cat’s body. Infected cats thus become infected with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Cats that are kept in larger groups (e.g. cat breeders) are particularly at risk of infection. Basically cats of all ages can get infected with the virus. However, at the time of diagnosis the animals are usually younger than one year.
The symptoms of FIP disease include:
Increasing abdominal girth (accumulation of fluid).
Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of skin and mucous membrane).
And nervous system (neurological) symptoms.
Veterinarians also distinguish between a wet and a dry form of infectious peritonitis. However, both forms can exist in an animal at the same time. The wet form is characterised by fluid accumulation in the body (e.g. in the abdominal cavity, pericardial cavity, kidneys). In the dry form, so-called granulomatous and pyogranulomatous changes in various tissues of the body can be detected under the microscope. These are found, for example, in the eyes, brain, kidneys and liver.
Both forms have in common that they are fatal and sick cats usually die within weeks or months. A specific treatment option against FIP does not yet exist. FIP can be prevented by disinfection of the environment or by vaccination. The latter does not provide sufficient protection against all strains of the pathogen and thus offers only limited protection against FIP.
If your cat gets sick:
Here is our The most common cat diseases A-Z Article
If you want to learn more about this topic, have a look at COVID-19 and Animals