Pets and COVID-19

We are now several weeks into our self-isolation period. I hope all of you are well and also maintaining a reasonable level of mental health in your hidey holes.

The humour and talent that has deluged the internet and smartphone apps have shown just how creative and brilliant people can be.

Take this time to do something creative yourselves. Write a journal or notes for a book, start drawing or painting, try a new language. This time at home gives you a chance to try something new, not just the daily grind. Our garden, for instance, has never looked better!
This month I thought I might ‘factualise’ some rumours about corona that circle around the animal sphere.

So, if you have read and wonder about any of the following, here you are:

1) Do cats get coronavirus?
Yes. But they get FELINE coronavirus. This is an intestinal disease acquired by many or even most kittens. It is a self-limiting disease of the young causing mild diarrhoea for a few days.

This feline coronavirus can also, very rarely, mutate to a different form within individuals. This (very different) disease is called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). This condition is much more serious, but, as the names very strongly suggest, is limited to our feline friends only. Worrying about catching feline coronavirus is as pointless as worrying about catching Feline Aids. I have had many ‘needle stick’ injuries working with cats with FIV and have never once caught it…

2) Can dogs catch coronavirus?
Yes. This, again, is an intestinal infection which causes a self-limiting diarrhoea. Like kittens, most puppies recover within days and retain life-long immunity from against the virus as a puppy.

Cats are the only species in which we see the virus causing other (rare) problems like FIP. Once a puppy has recovered from the coronavirus it remains disease-free from it for life.

3) Can it infect large animals?
Once again, coronavirus causes species-specific gut infections e.g. in foals and calves which cause a self-limiting diarrhoea when they are young. So, you can see, coronavirus has been with us i.e. the planet!) for a long time. Like a lot of evolution, it has decided to divide into species-specific pathogens.

If this misses the point of how unlikely it is that you can catch coronavirus from another species, perhaps I can draw the analogy of an avid EVERTON fan donning the LIVERPOOL stripes and going to watch the derby. Equally unlikely would be a BENFICA fan heading down to watch the match in the resplendent green colours of SPORTING LISBOA. Hardened supporters don’t.

One last thing to say though: Animals can act like fomites (my 2-year-old, for instance, is a righty little fomite!). A fomite is just an industry term for anything that a pathogen (like coronavirus or staphylococcus bacteria) can attach to and be a source of transmission (not contagion!) So, your dog is similar to that door handle, the petrol pump or that 200€ bill in your pocket (!).

In this way, any surface can be a source for transmission. So, after you have been handling items such as petrol pumps and 200€ bills, be mindful to not touch your face and wash your hands thoroughly soon thereafter. Now…you don’t have to disinfect your dog every time he comes in the house but be mindful about letting people pat her on your afternoon walk. This is the only way in which your pet can give you the virus…as a fomite and TEMPORARILY carrying the virus on its fur.

It is different if you have a friendly cat, who goes and sleeps on the neighbour’s lap after they feed it. Then you might want to douse it in disinfectant and chuck it in the wash. Note: This was an invocation of a comical technique called rhetoric. Don’t chuck your cat it the wash. Just don’t do that. Do consider this form of transmission with cats who come and visit your house, because, they too, can act as fomites.

(Whilst researching, I have found other obviously reliable facts about coronavirus (from a top American source): The virus was engineered in China. The virus is actually a democrat conspiracy. The virus can be killed by a drug that possibly already exists. I knew there was an iceberg there all along!)

Just a reminder that veterinary services are still available. Vet clinics are only seeing very sick animals at this time, so no vaccinations, I am sorry to say.

You can refer to our Facebook page for advice on protection at this time.

We are still attending to routine problems such as skin infections by remote consult ie phone/video calls and photographs. Do still contact your vet if you have a concern with your pet.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Enjoy yourselves in new (or old) ways.

More waffle from me next month.



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