HSVMA Statement Regarding Two Cats in New York
Testing Positive for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA announced this week the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in two pet cats from two areas in New York state. The cats had mild respiratory illness and are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE. Information about this virus and disease changes rapidly and there are still many questions that are unknown and cannot be adequately answered yet.
At this point, instances of companion animals being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 are extremely rare worldwide. Experts with the CDC and the World Organisation for Animal Health suspect these are cases of human-to-animal transmission. According to the CDC, at this time there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
Dr. Gail Hansen, DVM, MPH of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association says, “It is critically important that pet owners keep these few positive cat cases in perspective and not make rash decisions about their pets. At this time there is no reason to think that pets can spread COVID-19 to humans. It is likely that the pets were infected by people with COVID-19. We do know that our pets provide very important and positive roles in our lives.”
Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the AVMA, CDC, USDA, American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), or National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV). Veterinarians are requested to rule out more common causes of clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2 and contacting public or animal health officials. The situation is ever-changing, so the decision to test should be made collaboratively and coordinated with the attending veterinarian and local, state, or federal public and animal health officials. Read the full HSVMA statement on testing for COVID-19 here.
Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, the CDC and the veterinary community recommend that you treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a potential infection.
Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.
If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.
CDC Guidelines for Clinic Preparedness During COVID-19
The CDC has also issued new interim guidance for veterinary clinics during the COVID-19 response to facilitate preparedness and to ensure practices are in a veterinary clinical setting to help people and animals stay safe and healthy. Read these guidelines here.