askST: Can Covid-19 infect pets and what precautions should pet owners take?

In Singapore, it is not the policy to quarantine pets of patients, and this has not happened.
In Singapore, it is not the policy to quarantine pets of patients, and this has not happened.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Hong Kong authorities said on Friday (Feb 28) that there is no evidence yet to show dogs can transmit the new coronavirus to humans or other animals.

This came after the pet dog belonging to an infected woman tested "weak positive", according to local media reports. The animal has been quarantined for further tests.

But the Hong Kong government has said that pets of coronavirus patients must be quarantined, even as volunteers in China struggle to keep up with the number of animals being abandoned as the country battles the outbreak.

In Singapore, it is not the policy to quarantine pets of patients, and this has not happened, the health authorities said.

The World Health Organisation, World Organisation for Animal Health, an international organisation with 181 member countries; and World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which represents more than 200,000 veterinarians worldwide; all agree that at present, there is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with coronavirus.

What precautions should pet owners take? Here is some advice put together by the WSAVA's Scientific and One Health committees:

Q: Can Covid-19 infect pets?

A: Currently there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread Covid-19.

Q: If my pet has been in contact with someone who is sick from Covid-19, can it spread the disease to other people?

A: While we do not yet know for sure, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread the disease. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus. There is currently no evidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. While Covid-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person to person. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

 
 
 

Q: What should I do if my pet develops an unexplained illness and was around an infected person?

A: Talk to the public health official working with the person infected with Covid-19. If the public health veterinarian, or other public health official, advises you to take your pet to a vet, call your clinic before you go to let them know that you have a sick pet that has been exposed to an infected person. This will allow the clinic time to prepare an isolation area. Do not take the animal to a veterinary clinic unless you are instructed to do so by a public health official.

Q: What should be done with pets in areas where the virus is active?

A: Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with Covid-19, until we know more, pet owners should avoid contact with animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before and after they interact with animals. If owners are sick, they should avoid contact with animals in their household, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If they need to care for their pet or be around animals while they are sick, they should wash their hands before and after they interact with them and wear a face mask.

According to WHO, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.