Peek Into The Pack Blog

Can Our Rescues Get COVID-19? Why We Don’t Need to Worry

5 June, 2020 PITP Header Image

Article by Rae McCue

Rae is the former Animal Care Supervisor. She left us in July, 2020.

June 5, 2020

There have been some recent reports from the media of pets supposedly contracting COVID-19 from humans, but is it true? The fact is that there are many different corona viruses that affect many different species. Cats, dogs, and humans have been susceptible to corona viruses long before the current pandemic. However, in the past, the corona viruses known to effect either dogs or cats were species-specific and extremely mild in nature—think something like kennel cough. There is even a canine vaccine for corona viruses, but most veterinarians don’t recommend it.

Coyote, Lyla Rose

But what about the two house cats in New York City and the group of Bengal tigers and their caretaker at the Bronx Zoo who tested positive for COVID-19? This news changed what we thought we knew about this particular strain (or strains) of virus(es), but the bottom line remains that pets, pet owners, and therefore, the wild canid rescues of Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary are not currently at risk.

Nevertheless, this discovery spiked an interest in research testing COVID-19 on various animals. It was concluded that livestock, including pigs, chickens, and ducks are not susceptible to the virus. This is good news for the rescues of the sanctuary who rely on these meat sources for food. Cats, ferrets, and dogs, however, can, in fact, get COVID-19. Despite this scary evidence, there are only a single-digit number of cases of pet cats worldwide (and at least one instance in China of a pet dog) contracting COVID-19 from people, but zero cases of people contracting COVID-19 from cats or dogs.

Dr. John Howe, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association, states that thousands of dogs have been tested by IDEXX (an independent laboratory firm located in the state of Maine) for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus and no infection was found. To date, IDEXX has tested samples from sick dogs and cats in seventeen countries and have found no infections. Dr. Howe assures that he has “no concern over domestic animals and livestock” (except possibly ferrets) transmitting infections to people; we would have seen outbreaks by now if that were a significant risk. “Human-to-human transmission remains the main driver,” says Dr. Howe. He does not believe cats are an intermediate host, since we are not seeing more infection either between cats or from cats to people. Dr. Howe’s sentiments are shared throughout the veterinary and medical communities according to both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the VCA (Veterinary Centers of America).

High-content wolf-dog, Draco

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. “We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations,” states the CDC.
With that being said, it’s important to know that this virus is unpredictable, and close monitoring of proper scientific research is required. It is also important to know and understand facts, rather than rely solely on hearsay or news without fact-driven sources. During the Spanish Flu of 1918, panicked families tragically killed their pet dogs because similar misinformation was spread. While it’s important to keep pets inside and monitor their health, safety, and well-being as we normally would, there is no cause for concern.

Although the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary Team remains on the same roller coaster ride as everyone else and we are watching for mutations within this virus, we expect our rescued wild canids to continue thriving in good health!

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  1. Deborah Wickman

    im really glad the animals are safe and i pray you all stay safe 🙂

    • Megan Murphy

      Thank you, Deborah! <3


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