Updated: Apr 12, 2020
It is now known that at least two dogs and one cat have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. The dogs were in Hong Kong and the cat in Belgium.
The dogs were asymptomatic, but the cat exhibited diarrhoea, vomiting and breathing difficulties.
There is no evidence of animal to human transmission.
How should I manage my pets if I get sick?
The World Organisation for Animal Health advises taking sensible precautions by avoiding contact with your pets if you are sick.
Just as social distancing is the mantra for human contact, it applies equally to our pets.
If possible remove pets from your vicinity and have someone else take care of them. If that is not possible then they recommend that you avoid touching them as much as possible, wash your hands before and after all contact and, if possible, wear a face mask when feeding or interacting with them.
Practice social distancing and isolate your animals from other people/animals as you do yourself.
Wash your hands before and after handling animals.
Minimise contact with your animals if you get sick.
Background on the Liege Cat
At a press conference in Belgium on Friday 27th March the Belgium Federal Public Service Public Health department announced:
“Recently, the veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat. The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did,”
“We want to stress that this is an isolated case. There are no indications that this is common. Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around. The risk of animal-to-human transmission, is very small,”
Quoted from The Brussels Times.
This appears to have initially been reported on, or before, the 3rd of March, as indicated by an announcement in a Belgium Federal Consumer website. (In Dutch) A Google translation of the announcement is:
PETS -NEW 03/03 / 2020-
Can pets infect humans if they have been in contact with infected individuals? It is known that the environment of Covid-19 patients can be very contaminated. Pets living with infected people are highly exposed to the virus. So far there are only 3 known cases (2 dogs in Hong Kong and 1 cat in Belgium) where the pet has been infected by humans. The dogs showed no disease symptoms and the cat had transient respiratory and digestive disorders. There is no evidence to date that the virus is being transmitted from pets to humans or other pets. Although it is suspected that the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans originally came from wild animals, it has since adapted to humans ("humanized" virus).
Nevertheless, it is strongly recommended to continue to apply the classic hygiene rules (avoid close contact with your animal, especially if you are ill, wash your hands after touching an animal, do not let the animal lick your face). This is on the one hand to prevent that you would transmit the virus to your pet and to prevent your pet from becoming a carrier and excretor of the virus as a result of an environmental contamination.