(ABC4) – For pet owners, there are few simple pleasures more enjoyable than snuggling up to “Spot” or “Sassy” for a cuddle or a good night’s sleep.
However, with COVID cases rapidly rising, there is a need to have a bit of caution before spending time with household pets. Some may not know this, but it’s true, there’s a chance your pet could get infected with the virus by close contact with a sick owner.
Guinnevere Shuster, the Utah Humane Society’s Associate Director of Communications, recommends that pet lovers take a break from their animals if they come down with a positive test, in addition to isolating from other humans. It’s not common for a pet to get sick from COVID, but it is possible.
“Animals can certainly get sick from it, but kind of along the same lines with a lot of people, there’s not a ton of research done on this,” Shuster explains to ABC4.com. “But generally speaking, you know, you might not realize your animal has it if you’ve given it to them.”
Fortunately, severe illness in household pets is extremely rare at this point. However, just like a human case of the virus, some of the symptoms for pets are the same. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even has a page on its website outlining that a pet with COVID could have a fever, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and stomach issues.
But what else do researchers know about animals and COVID? Not much.
According to the animal-centric blog, Worms and Germs, a resource used by the Humane Society to monitor developments in pet sickness studies, not much is known on a species-by-species basis how the illness works with animals. Cats seem to be more susceptible than dogs, no one has any clue about horses, minks and ferrets have shown to spread the virus quickly among themselves, and pigs are a complete wild card.
There doesn’t appear to be any indication that an animal-to-human transmission is likely or common, but the research is still quite thin across the board.
While it’s not a grave concern, Shuster says the Humane Society isn’t too worried about the possibility of many Utah animals getting sick. Even as omicron wreaks havoc on case count numbers, there are ways to limit the possibility of infection.
If you’re a human with COVID, time away from your pet may be needed, as painful as that may be. It’s also not a good time to share your human food on the same plates or dishes as the animals (Sorry, Spot).
Should you suspect your pet may be sick with the virus, the CDC recommends calling your veterinarian and advises against bringing the pet into the office. If you have a cat who may be sick, he/she should be kept inside; no more roaming around for a while.
As of now, there is no recommended vaccine for pets, but there have been instances of zoo animals such as bears, baboons, and tigers receiving an experimental dose developed exclusively for the creatures. It makes sense, considering how vital those animals are to the operation of those businesses and how foreign they may be to their current environment. Utah’s Hogle Zoo, however, stated in July that it had no plans to vaccinate its animals, however in November, several of its lions tested positive for the virus. That prompted the Zoo to review its animal vaccination policies.
However, as far as the lion’s distant relative, the house cat, or its stereotypically sworn enemy, the dog, there isn’t a need to pursue vaccination at this time. While pets could still get sick, it shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle, even during the Omicron surge.
What should be considered though, is what to do, as a pet owner, if you get sick yourself.
“Maybe plan ahead and put something in place, so you have people to come care for your animal or be able to take them while you’re getting treatment,” Shuster recommends. “But for the most part, it’s not a big concern. It doesn’t seem like a really big worry on our part that a bunch of animals are going to get sick.”