NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Social distancing applies to pets as well as humans in households with positive cases of COVID-19, according to research by Texas A&M AgriLife.
Confirmed cases of pets infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are being reported across the U.S.
"We do need to talk about our pets," said Susan Culp, DVM, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service veterinarian in the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases. "If you do have a human in a home that is diagnosed positive, in addition to isolating from other people, they need to isolate from their pets."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, recommends avoiding contact with your pet including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food and sleeping in the same bed. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed a dog in Tarrant County infected with COVID-19 on July 7.
While that was the first confirmed animal detection in Texas, there were more than 20 diagnosed cases in the U.S., according to USDA, which states, "We are still learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 in people, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations."
A small number of animals worldwide have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Culp said according to the CDC, the risk of a positive-testing animal spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
"Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people," said Andy Schwartz, DVM, TAHC state veterinarian. "It's always important to restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would other people, if you are infected with COVID-19 in order to protect them from infection."
"It's also important that any animal suspected of possibly being infected with SARS-CoV-2 also be evaluated for the other common causes of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms," said Bruce Akey, DVM, director of TVMDL, adding TVMDL can provide an array of testing for these more common, and more likely, causes of illness in the animal, as well.
Culp explained that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, and animals can have their own coronaviruses. Some coronaviruses can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in some animals.
The chances are very low that the human can spread it to the animal, but it can happen, Culp said. She said people diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow the CDC guidelines and keep themselves away from their pets as well as other people.
"The CDC also has guidelines for anyone who has a service dog," Culp said. "They don't have to separate themselves, but certainly should wear a mask."
Culp said CDC guidance indicates routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended.
"We want to let people know it is not common, but it is possible," Culp said. "If you have COVID, take the precautions and social distance from your pet."
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