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By Scott Hafeman DVM PhD

By Scott Hafeman DVM PhD
There has been a lot of information in the news about the newly emerged coronavirus that is causing illness in China and around the world. This month I will answer many of the common questions that I have been hearing concerning this virus. As always feel free to stop by the clinic with any further questions or concerns that you might have.

Are cats and dogs at risk of contracting the 2019 novel coronavirus? There is currently no evidence that dogs or cats can be infected with the 2019-nCoV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Are other types of pets (rats, ferrets, turtles, etc.) at risk from the 2019-nCoV? While public health officials believe that 2019-nCoV probably originally emerged from an animal source, it now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. There is no reason to think that any animals or pets in 6the United States are at risk of contracting 2019-nCoV or are a source for infection. However, as a precaution, the CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid contact with both live and dead animals while there. The practice of selling/consuming wildlife that may carry the virus has
been implicated as the source of the current novel coronavirus outbreak in China. As such, the CDC does not advise acquiring an exotic pet at this time as it is unknown which species might be viral carriers. Any time a new pet is acquired, regardless of species, it should be quarantined away
from your other pets until a veterinarian confirms that it is free of disease. Always wash your hands after handling pets—there are many common diseases that may be spread from pets to people. If you have any questions about the health of your exotic pet, contact your veterinarian.

Can humans pass the 2019 novel coronavirus to their pets? And can pets pass it to humans? At present, there is no evidence that people can spread 2019- nCoV to their pets or vice versa. However, there are other diseases that can be spread from people to pets and pets to people. It's always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets, especially those that do not belong to you. Other ways to avoid spreading disease between pets and people include making sure that your pets are up to date on their vaccinations and receive regular parasite control. Additionally, it is not a good idea to feed raw food to cats and dogs as this can put both pets and their owners at risk for common bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.

Are face masks made for dogs a useful protection against coronavirus or other illnesses? Veterinarians do not recommend face masks for dogs. While pictures of Chinese dogs wearing face masks are showing up online, there’s no scientific evidence that these masks protect dogs from either infectious diseases or air pollutants. Dogs’ faces have a lot more variation than human faces do, meaning that a face mask designed to fit one type or breed of dog is unlikely to fit most others. Additional- ly, we cannot explain to a dog why we are putting something potentially scary and uncomfortable on their face. A dog who has not been carefully trained to wear a face mask may panic, harming themselves. This is especially true for brachycephalic dogs (those with short muzzles or “flat faces”) who may already have difficulty breathing due to their conformation.

Do coronaviruses ever effect pets? Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in several species of domestic and wild animals including cattle, horses, dogs, cats, ferrets, camels, bats, and humans. The type of disease caused by coronaviruses depends on the strain of coronavirus and the species of animal affected. In humans, coronaviruses typically cause mild respiratory infections. In cows and pigs they may cause diarrhea, while in chickens they can cause upper respiratory disease.

What are the symptoms of a pet with coronavirus? Canine coronavirus (CCoV) typically affects the gastrointestinal tract of dogs. Most dogs with CCoV do not show any clinical signs, but some dogs, particularly young puppies, may become seriously ill. The most common symptom of CCoV is diarrhea, which may be accompanied by lethargy and decreased appetite. Feline coronavirus (FCoV) is often asymptomatic, but can cause mild diarrhea, especially in young kittens. Rarely, a mutation of the virus can cause a disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which causes a severe inflammatory reaction in the abdomen, kidney, or brain. While a typical FCoV infection is mild, FIP is almost always fatal. It’s important to remember that there are many causes of diarrhea in dogs and cats. If a pet has diarrhea that does not resolve within twenty-four hours, is bloody, or is associated with significant lethargy or loss of appetite, it is important to see a veterinarian right away so that appropriate diagnosis and treatment can occur.

What is the treatment for coronaviruses in pets? There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses in dogs or cats. Mild clinical signs are unlikely to require therapy. Supportive care including replacement of lost fluids, nutritional support, and anti-nausea medication may be used for more severe cases. Rarely, hospitalization is necessary. Antibiotics are NOT effective against viruses and, therefore, will not help treat coronavirus infections.