Can my dog or cat catch the new coronavirus COVID-19?
The new coronavirus apparently spread to humans in Wuhan, China in December 2019 from bats, possibly through an unknown intermediate host.
This virus apparently can infect bats and now humans.
Previous coronavirus outbreaks came from bats possibly via a civet cat (SARS in 2013) and another came from bats possibly via camels (MERS from 2012).
There is to date, no evidence that the virus can enter the cells of cats and dogs.
The virus gains entry to the host’s cells via a receptor on the cell surface called ACE2. Once inside, the virus replicates and then destroys the host cell, releasing more virus particles.
However both cats and dogs do have the ACE2 receptor, as do most mammals, and the cat version of the ACE2 receptor is very similar to the human version. (1) Scientific paper.
Once the virus enters a cell, it still has to cause the cell’s internal machinery to replicate the virus. As yet there is no evidence that the cat’s and dog’s cells will be able to do that.
As of 1st March 2020 a few dogs and cats have been quarantined by the Hong Kong government after being exposed to humans infected with COVID-19.
One of the dogs has tested weakly positive for the virus. It remains to be seen whether the dog actually has the virus replicating in it’s body, or is merely carrying the virus, transferred from it’s owner.
The dog referred to above, has tested positive again, which indicates that the dog is infected with the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
However it needs to be stressed that dogs and cats are not going out, eating in crowded restaurants, travelling on public transport, or mixing with large numbers of infected strangers. Therefore it is impossible that the pets can bring the infection back home and infect their owners.
It does appear that it is prudent to quarantine mammalian pets whose owners are also under quarantine or treatment for this virus.
The dog is therefore a victim of infection from it’s owner.
There are reports of two cats testing positive to the new COVID-19 virus.
Again these cats caught the virus from their owners and there is no evidence that they passed the virus back to any humans.
(2) Newspaper story.
It has been reported that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Seven large cats at the zoo have mild symptoms of the virus.
It is thought that the cats caught the virus from an infected zoo keeper and there is no suggestion that the animals passed the virus to any humans. (3) BBC story.