29th May 2020

COVID-19 FAQ: Can pets catch and pass the disease?

29th May 2020

Curated by Endre Szvetnik

It seems dogs can catch SARS-CoV-2 from their owners, but it is unclear if they can pass it back to humans. Researchers observed 15 dogs and seven cats after their owners were taken to hospital in Hong Kong with Covid-19 and the pets were placed in temporary care.

Picture 1-2.jpg 10-34-03-098The SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected in two dogs, and an analysis of their and their owners’ samples revealed that the genetic code of the virus was identical in both pets and humans. This suggests that the dogs picked up the virus from their masters. Neither dogs became noticeably ill and tests found that they developed antibodies against the virus. The researchers also discovered that SARS-CoV-2 infects dogs in the same way as humans: its notorious surface “spike proteins” bind to a receptor molecule, ACE-2 on cell surfaces (ACE-2 is similar in dogs and humans) and this allows the coronavirus to enter the cell and start spreading the infection. The authors of this paper were unable to prove if infected dogs would pass on the virus to humans or dogs, (as this was beyond the scope of their study) but could not exclude the possibility.

And what about other animals? Japanese researchers have infected three cats with SARS-CoV-2 and then placed them among three healthy cats. Within five days the healthy cats became infected although they did not fall ill and developed antibodies, acquiring immunity. A Belgian study confirmed a case of human-to-cat infection and referred to the case of the two dogs in Hong Kong. Based on the limited data the authors could not assess the risk of infections passed from domestic animals to humans but suggested that it was negligible compared to transmission between people. The virus can also infect golden Syrian hampsters with the test animals surviving the illness with weight loss. Scientists warn that more research and regular monitoring pets and farm animals is needed, so they don’t become a virus reservoir that can further spread the virus.

Here is the current state of science on a Sparrho pinboard. NB: The pinboard contains research papers that have not been peer-reviewed yet, meaning that they have not gone through the standard scientific validation process yet.

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Curated by

Endre Szvetnik

Endre Szvetnik is Senior Editor at Sparrho. Endre works with Sparrho Heroes to curate, translate and disseminate scientific research to the wider public.

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