COVID-19 and Pets: Update
6 March 2020
The Hong Kong Government has issued further information on a pet dog that has repeatedly tested ‘weak positive’ for COVID-19 and states it indicates a low level of infection with the virus. Public health and veterinary experts in Hong Kong and The World Health Organisation (OIE) have been consulted and agree that the results suggest the dog has a low-level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission. The dog has not shown any clinical signs of disease related to the virus. It continues to be monitored and will be further tested whilst remaining in quarantine.
To minimise spread of COVID-19, pet owners are advised to adopt good hygiene practices, including hand washing before and after being around or handling animals or their food, and to avoid kissing them or being licked. Owners who are ill with the virus should limit contact with their pet. At present there is still no conclusive evidence that dogs and cats can fall ill due to COVID-19 or be a source of infection for the virus to other animals or humans, therefore there should be no need for owners to abandon or relinquish their pets. However, if an owner has any concerns that their pet may have contracted COVID-19, they are advised to call their local vet to seek advice before deciding to visit the practice.
WSAVA has issued updated advice which can be accessed here. This is global advice and local circumstances will differ therefore it is not suggested that for veterinary practices in the UK, hygiene practises should change. However, it is likely sensible for practice staff to remain vigilant and adopt a pragmatic approach such as maintaining standard hygiene and infection control measures and, when conducting examinations of pets with a known or suspected history of connection to the household of a confirmed case, consider taking appropriate precautions to mitigate possible risks that the pets and/or pet carriers etc. might act as a fomite.
For advice on protection of the personal health of practice employees and compliance with RCVS professional Codes, vets and vet nurses should refer to recent RCVS advice here.
Further advice on health and companion animals is available from OIE, WHO and NHS.
Self isolation advice is available here.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.