COVID-19 and pets
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.
New to Hong Kong
I have just moved to HK from the UK with my cat and dog. What do I need to know?
Coming to HK from the UK there are several diseases and conditions that you will not be familiar with.
Your cat will probably not be going outside. However he does not realise that he lives on a high floor in a tower block. We advise to keep your windows closed, as more often than you would believe, cats have a bad habit of jumping out.
- Tick Fever
- Heartworm Disease
- Heat Stroke
Dogs can catch tick fever. This is caused by a family of blood borne diseases caught from tick bites. Tick prevention is very important.
Your dog should also take medication to prevent heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquitoes and is very common in HK.
Coming from the UK you will not be very familiar with heat stroke, but it is also relatively common in HK’s climate.
Depending on where you live in HK and where you walk your dog then you need to be aware of Leptospirosis. This disease is spread in rats urine, and is relatively common in the stream beds on the Peak and New Territories. Leptospirosis is included in the annual vaccines that your dog had in the UK. In the UK now, a “four in one” vaccine for leptospirosis is the norm. In HK the older, “two in one” vaccine is still the usual one.
If your dog will be going to high risk places then we recommend that you talk to your vet about the 4 in 1 vaccine for Leptospirosis.
If my dog or cat is exposed to tear gas, what should I do?
If tear gas is released and is entering your flat, you should close all the windows immediately.
If your pet has been exposed then the first signs would usually be itchiness and pain of the eyes.
If you see those signs then you should try to rinse your pet’s eyes.
The best solutions would be saline or eye rinse.
If your pet has been more severely exposed then he or she may show signs of breathing difficulty.
This can be very serious for the short nosed breeds (brachycephalic), older pets or those with pre-existing heart or lung diseases.
If your pet has breathing problems, you should probably take your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic for professional help, which may include putting your pet on oxygen to ensure their tissues are getting the required amount of oxygen.
I took my dog out for a walk today and he now seems to be overheated. What shall I do?
Heat stroke is a very serious condition.
It can occur surprisingly easily, on hot days with high humidity.
It is much more common in dogs that are overweight and have snub noses, such as pugs and bulldogs.
If the dog has heatstroke, then the priority is to reduce the body temperature.
This is done by putting the dog in water or splashing water onto the dog.
The next priority is to take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible, who can then monitor the temperature and place the dog on intravenous fluids.
Intravenous fluids are extremely important to try to cool the dog and maintain kidney function.
However if the dog’s core temperature was raised by too much, it can be impossible to save the dog’s life.
What should I expect if my pet is giving birth?
Dogs normally give birth around the 63rd day of gestation and cats around the 65th day.
However most owners do not know when their pet was mated, so it can be a bit of a surprise when they go into labour.
The first signs of labour would be not eating, signs of discomfort such as getting up and down and circling.
Eventually, possibly after several hours, the mother will pass some clear fluid from the vulva.
Once the “waters break” the first baby should be born within one hour.
If there is no sign of a baby after one hour of the water breaking, then you should contact your vet immediately as your pet may need a Caesarian as soon as possible.
I just took my dog out for a walk and they were sniffing a snake. Now they are behaving strangely. What should I do?
If you have a suspicion that your dog may have been bitten by a snake and it is now behaving strangely, then you should call your vet and ask if they stock snake antivenom.
You should take your pet to a vet who stocks the antivenom, as soon as possible.
Do not wait to see if the pet gets worse.
About half the time a dog is presented to us for a possible snake bite, the dog has not been bitten at all.
But, it is much better to go to the vet early, for a false alarm, than to get there too late.
It is advisable to take a photo of the snake or bring the dead snake in, to help the vet identify which is the best antivenom to give.
However usually we can guess the snake type from the clinical signs of the poisoned pet.
Death from snake bite can be very quick, especially if your dog or cat is small.
There are 3 poisonous snakes in Hong Kong, which frequently bite and envenom pets.
The cobra, the green pit viper and the banded krait. (Pictured below.)
There is also the king cobra which is much less common and is extremely toxic, so the pet would die extremely quickly.A snake bite in your pet can be a devastating experience.
A snake bite in your pet can be a devastating experience.
However if the anti venom is given quickly enough, we can often get an almost miraculous recovery.
I think my dog has a fever, what should I do?
The first question is; does your dog still want to eat? If it does, then any fever is not yet too serious.
If your dog is not eating then you should make an appointment to get your dog seen by your vet.
If you are able to measure the rectal temperature and it is above 40°C, then that is serious. You would want to put your dog in an air-conditioned room, in the summer, until you can get him to the vet.
Measuring an animal’s temperature from the ear is very unreliable. It is usually measured at the rectum.
You would be advised to find out if the dog has been on tick prevention medicine, as the vet would want to know this information.
My pet has red urine, what should I do?
Red urine can have many different causes.
It can be crudely divided into two types of disease.
Either something is bleeding directly into the urinary tract or there is some problem with the body’s internal workings and the kidneys are filtering out the red stuff and excreting it through the urine.
The underlying condition is usually serious and your pet would need to visit a vet as soon as possible to find the cause.
Investigations will usually require a urine sample, so make sure that you take a fresh sample with you in a clean container and your vet will also probably run a blood test.
Very rarely, the red colour in the urine can be caused by something that the pet has recently eaten or that the pet has been injected with such as a vitamin injection.