• At least 6 animal species have tested positive for COVID-19.
• Experts warn that mutations through animal hosts could reinfect human populations and cause worse illnesses.
• If you are sick with COVID-19, you should mask up and maintain distance from your pets.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it hasn’t just been humans that could be infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Across the world, animals have been hit by the coronavirus, from lions and tigers at zoos to deer in your backyard. Even your cat can come down with COVID-19.
“People don’t live in a vacuum,” Dr. Keith Poulsen, the director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said earlier this year. “When you have an infectious disease come through, we have households of mammals, and that includes people, dogs, cats.”
One of the things that concerns health experts most is how the ever-evolving coronavirus could potentially become stronger through mutation via animals. Then that new, improved version of the coronavirus could spill over back into the human population.
Some of the animals that could potential act as a reservoir for new COVID strains include those we keep in our homes.
Cats were some of the first animals known to contract COVID-19, when pet owners said they noticed symptoms in their feline friends. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said there have been a total of 97 total cases, including 46 cases that came up positive via a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test.
Dogs were the first animals in Washington state to show evidence of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in a study by the University of Washington. Twenty-three dogs tested for positive for COVID antibodies in April.
A female Malayan tiger named Nadia tested positive for COVID-19 near the start of the pandemic in April 2020. Since then, 16 tigers have tested positive in the U.S. A Pakistani zoo reported that two of its 11-week-old white tiger cubs died from COVID after autopsies revealed lung damage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said hamsters can be infected with the virus and can also spread the infection to other hamsters.
Recently, a whopping 40% of deer tested in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania testing positive for COVID antibodies.
There are 30 million white-tailed deer in the continental U.S, and they’re a common sight near human homes. But experts said that the chance of getting infected by an animal is remote.
Lions have tested positive from COVID-19 everywhere from New York to Spain to Sri Lanka.
How to keep your pets safe if you have COVID-19
If you are sick with COVID-19, it’s important to protect yourself and your pets around you. The CDC recommends that you avoid contact with your pets and other animals in the same way that you would isolate yourself from the public.
If you are sick, you can have someone else in the house manage your pets, but you should refrain from petting, snuggling, kissing, and sleeping in the same bed with your pet. If you live alone, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with your pets.
The agency also said that pet owners should not allow pets to have contact with unvaccinated people outside of the household. Additionally, if you and your pet become sick with COVID-19, you should not take your pet to a veterinary clinic yourself. Call them and tell them the situation; often telemedicine or other plans for seeing sick pets can be arranged.
Recent research suggests that if an animal is infected with the virus, it would highly unusual for it to transmit to other animals or humans.