‘Don’t let anyone pat your dog’: Vet’s urgent warning as scientists research coronavirus link to animals11 April 2020
Dr Fawcett called on people to treat their animals the same way they do other humans, by avoiding close contact while possible and washing your hands before touching them.
She said that vets have been declared an essential service so they can stay open during coronavirus lockdown, but they had changed their way of doing business to avoid the risk of human-to-human transmission.
Changes include owners waiting outside while their pet is checked over, and some vets are doing appointments online.
Professor Jacqui Norris, also from The University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary science, said the animals that had tested positive for coronavirus had not been involved in spreading it to humans.
‘These pets were living with infected human owners and the timing of the positive result demonstrates human-to-animal transfer. Virus culture on these pets was negative, meaning that an active virus was not present,’ she said.
Despite no evidence suggesting animals can transfer COVID-19 to humans, Prof Norris reiterated it was important to maintain social distancing with pets too.
Last month Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan, an animal welfare expert from UNSW’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said there were reports of animals being killed or abandoned over fears they would spread COVID-19 to their owners.
‘These are virus-free, healthy animals, and there is no reason to believe that dogs are able to pass the virus onto humans, or that dogs have passed the virus on to humans,’ she said.
‘Yet, even if this were true – which it is not – there are clearly more ethical ways to respond to the issue.’
She said she hopes reports of people bringing their animals to vets for euthanisation were isolated.
‘I am yet to hear of an influx of animals to pounds. But, if people are thinking of dumping their animals, as opposed to having them killed, they need to be aware that not all animals that go to the pound will find a forever home,’ she said.
The RSPCA Australia reiterated claims that there was no evidence to suggest COVID-19 in animals could be passed onto humans.
‘There are many different types of coronavirus. Media articles reporting coronavirus being detected in dogs and cats have generally referred to distinctly different virus types to the one causing the human disease COVID-19,’ their website read.
The first dog in the world to catch coronavirus died in Hong Kong last month after it was declared disease-free and returned home to its owner.
The 17-year-old Pomeranian, whose owner contracted COVID-19 in February, had been quarantined at a government facility before it returned home.
A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) told the South China Morning Post: ‘The department learned from the dog’s owner that it had passed away on March 16. The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death.’
The canine had tested ‘weak positive’ in five nasal and oral analyses last month. However, in two tests taken on March 12 and 13 the pet tested negative and had been allowed to return home.
The dog’s owner has been named locally as 60-year-old businesswoman Yvonne Chow Hau Yee.