Coronavirus in pets and humans: know the differences!

Original article: Coronavirus in pets and humans: learn the differences! (6.4.2020)
Translation: 17.1.2021

There is currently no evidence to suggest that humans infected with humans play a role in the spread of COVID-19. (*)

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new type of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. As the number of new cases grows worldwide, there is a growing concern for human and animal welfare, and important questions arise regarding prevention and best practices in the event of a positive diagnosis. In addition, another major doubt has arisen among pet owners: can dogs and cats also become infected, or can they transmit the virus?

So far, there are only a few known cases of pet infections around the world, including two dogs in Hong Kong and two cats in Belgium. Both dogs showed no signs of disease, but one cat had respiratory and digestive disorders. In addition, he had US Department of Agriculture The Malaysian Tiger also tested positive at the Bronx Zoo in New York.

According to the data World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) a World Health Organization (WHO), there is as yet no evidence to suggest that humans infected with humans play any role in the spread of COVID-19.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are quite common in animals. There are four genera of the family Coronaviridae (Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirsus, Gammacoronavirus and Deltacoronavirus), which cause different diseases in different species of animals. The WHO emphasizes that people are occasionally infected with these viruses, which can spread to other people. For example SARS-CoV has been associated with civets and MERS-CoV is transmitted by single-humped camels.

Relationship with animals

Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed. Although the OIE claims that current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus came from an animal source, investigations are underway to find that source (including relevant species) and to determine the possible role of the animal reservoir in the disease.

To understand these differences, we spoke to our veterinarians. Hervé Poulet, the global leader in vaccines for pets and horses, shares the view that, despite the current lack of evidence that pets can transmit COVID-19, the OIE emphasizes that people who have the disease should avoid being very close. contact with your pets. Furthermore, they should follow good hygienic practices when handling and caring for them - this is a behavior that we should always follow.

"Cats and dogs can also be affected by their specific coronavirus, for example canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV), which belongs to the genus Alphacoronavirus and causes mild enteritis in dogs and infects cells in the gut, ”says Hervé.

Jean-Philippe Tronel, global technical director for pet vaccines, notes that vaccination against this animal disease already exists and is present in polyvalent vaccines for dogs in North America and some countries in Asia and Latin America. In addition, in the context of felines, there is a feline coronavirus (FCoV) that can cause a serious feline disease known as feline infectious peritonitis. The vaccine against it is available in some countries in Europe, Asia and North America.

It's not the same coronavirus

In contrast, people may be positive for presence beta-coronaviruses - such as SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the current pandemic; SARS-CoV, which originally caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in China in 2002 (SARS); a MERS-CoV, responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which appeared in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It is important to emphasize that there is no evidence of human-to-animal transmission in both diseases.

"Given these differences, the treatment options for different types of coronavirus are certainly not the same. Among the growing panic over the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports that people are seeking vaccines against canine and feline coronavirus as a desperate - and incorrect - method of immunization. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that these vaccines are exclusively for dogs or cats. There are no clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy in humans, ”says Hervé.

Last but not least, Karin Botteon, a veterinary consultant in the pet segment in Brazil, emphasizes that in case of any doubts, more than ever, it is crucial to always seek the advice of a veterinarian during this pandemic period. It is essential to strengthen the need for preventive medicine for pets, including proper adherence to vaccination programs.

"Because most countries in the world are currently facing a series of restraints, it is very important that pet owners contact their veterinarians to obtain correct and professional information on best practices and boards of directors for their own country or even region. Remember: when animals are healthy, people are also healthier, "concludes Karin.

(*) The situation regarding COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Research into all aspects is taking place around the world, including the mode of infection, and there is no way to go as far as possible to obtain as much information as possible. From what we know so far, there is no scientific knowledge about any transmission of the disease from pets to humans.

We follow all related research results and recommendations of international experts, especially the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We will share these updates when they become available.

Translator's Note: There is only 63% similarity between SARS-CoV-2 and FCoV, and even so, it is limited to only about 1/4 of the genome.