ANNA MARIA ISLAND – After some big cats in zoos have been shown to not only carry COVID-19, but actually show symptoms, some wonder if their pets are safe.
Zoos from Tampa to Washington D.C. and around the world have been reporting lions and tigers that have not only tested positive for COVID-19, but have shown symptoms very similar to humans, such as respiratory illness. Scientists say it’s much more likely that humans in close contact with the big cats spread the virus to the animals, not vice versa.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that dogs, cats and ferrets have also tested positive, but the cases are few.
“It appears that there have been a few pets that have been COVID positive, especially in the beginning,” said Dr. Emily Murphy, of the Island Animal Clinic in Holmes Beach. “There were a couple of cases of dogs that they believed were positive, but they were asymptomatic and we haven’t seen much since then. We don’t believe with the numbers we are seeing now that is transmissible to dogs and cats. The big cats in the zoo, yes, but not pets.”
Murphy echoes the CDC, saying the big cats in the zoos have shown respiratory illness that is almost certainly due to COVID, and that the COVID likely was transmitted to the cats through zoo workers who were COVID-positive being in close contact with the animals.
Other pets such as birds, reptiles and rodents appear to have almost no chance of being affected by the pandemic, she said; it also appears unlikely that your dog or cat would be a carrier that would pass the virus on to you or your family after contact with someone who is positive, such as a pet sitter or groomer.
“There hasn’t been anything like that that I know of where that kind of transmission has happened at all, but of course, I’m learning to never say never when it comes to this virus as it continues to change,” she said.
According to Murphy, there is no reason to worry about pet-to-pet transmission on play dates or trips to the groomer. It’s far more likely you will catch COVID from another human than any animal that may interact with your pet. Even though it seems unlikely your pet will have anything to do with the transmission of COVID, both the CDC and Murphy agree it is probably not a good idea to cuddle close to your dog or cat if you are sick with the virus. It is recommended you have someone else take care of your pet while you are positive, just to be on the safe side.
While Shawn Warner said she isn’t worried about her dog, Zeke, getting COVID as he rides shotgun with her in the Old Town Tram golf cart shuttle service in Bradenton Beach, she also is staying on the safe side, just in case. Zeke gets petted, hugged and kissed dozens of times every day they are on duty.
“I will say I take a lot of precautions,” Warner said. “I clean his face just like I do my own. I keep wipes on the cart and clean the steering wheel and seats, as well as Zeke and I.”