Will There Ever Be COVID Tests for Pets?

With COVID-19 still circulating around the world, many people are asking, will there ever be a COVID test for pets? Here’s what you need to know.

Can Animals Contract COVID 19?

The truth is that there are many unknowns. According to the CDC, there is a possibility that animals who have been in very close contact with infected humans can also contract COVID 19. What animals are affected and how easily it is spread is still unclear.

What makes COVID-19 even more interesting is how few animals have caught the disease. According to the USDA (the governing body that is tracking COVID cases in animals), there have only been 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in animals as of January 15th. This means that of the millions of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in humans, only a handful of animals have tested positive with the disease. The odds of any animal you personally know catching COVID is very, very slim.

What Animals are at Risk?

So far, these animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Gorillas
  • Lions
  • Minks
  • Snow leopards
  • Tigers

Of all these animals, household cats are the most affected. Cats actually make up almost half of all animals that have tested positive. While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, scientists have looked at if other animals can catch COVID-19. So far, they have concluded that ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, and tree shrews can become infected.

It seems that some animals don’t seem to catch the disease. Laboratory mice, pigs, chickens, and ducks seem to be resistant to infection and cannot spread it.

Can Animals Spread COVID 19?

If we look at the information above, we can see that some animals are resistant to catching or spreading the disease. The actual chances of a pet catching COVID and spreading it to its owner are extremely rare. Though, all the animals on the USDA’s list of positive animal cases are thought to have caught COVID from their handler. Each animal tested positive after they came in close contact with either their owner or a handler who was confirmed to have caught COVID.

Pets can catch COVID from their owner, though it is still extremely unlikely. And even if a pet catches the disease, there’s no evidence that the pet can then spread it to another human. Some pets have spread the disease to other pets, especially from cat to cat transmission.

While you’re not likely to catch COVID from your pet sneezing on you, there is another way they can spread the disease. If an infected person touches your pet then you touch your pet, you can catch COVID. Your pet won’t catch the infection then give it to you, but they are a mobile surface. And that mobile surface can spread infection just by walking around.

This scenario is still not very likely though. And you can decrease the odds even further by being sure to wipe your dog’s paws after a walk outside and follow proper social distancing procedures.

Will There Be a COVID 19 Test for Pets?

If you’re looking to get your pet tested, you’ll have to wait. There is no drive-up rapid test centers available for pets. But there are tests available if you suspect your pet has COVID. These tests are rarely used, however. The CDC recommends testing pets only if they exhibit symptoms and have been exposed to a person who is confirmed to have caught COVID.

The CDC also makes this point clear: pets who are confirmed to have COVID should not be abandoned. The extremely low probability of a pet infecting a human means that there is little worry of getting sick if your pet has COVID. Not only that but if your pet is sick, you are likely the one who gave it to them. If this is the case, you may call your vet and ask for advice, but do not go to the vet if you are infected with COVID. Most pets exhibit very minor symptoms and should be able to recover quickly.

Internationally, South Korea is going to begin testing pets who have been exposed and exhibit symptoms as well. This news comes after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a South Korean pet, a kitten. Officials say that pets in the Metro Seoul area who have COVID symptoms and have been exposed to the virus will be tested to confirm if it was actually transmitted to them.

In South Korea, pets will not be placed in quarantine unless their caretaker is hospitalized or is too ill to care for the pet. In this case, the pet will go to a city-run facility to recover.

Keeping Your Pet Safe

The most important thing to remember is that you can keep your pet safe by keeping them away from infected humans and pets. While most countries are not well-equipped to deal with COVID in pets, there isn’t much you need to do if your pet becomes infected. If your pet starts exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

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