Cats, Dogs, and the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know
A German shepherd, a Pomeranian, a house cat, and a tiger have all tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but the overall risk to animals is low
On Sunday, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that Nadia, a four-year-old female tiger at the Bronx Zoo, tested positive for Covid-19. The testing was done after the tiger and six other big cats — three lions and three tigers — developed a dry cough and the zoo learned that one of the animals’ handlers was positive for the virus. Fortunately, the animals are expected to make a full recovery and are “doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers.”
While at first it sounded like the universe was playing a giant Tiger King-themed prank, there’s mounting evidence that cats — wild and domestic — really are susceptible to the novel coronavirus. In late March, a cat in Belgium tested positive for the virus after it showed signs of respiratory distress, vomiting, and diarrhea. The cat’s owner had contracted Covid-19 while on a trip to Italy, and the two have since been in quarantine together.
And despite early good news from the WHO that dogs were immune to the novel coronavirus, it now appears that they can also become infected, although the risk seems to be lower in dogs than in cats. The only known cases in dogs so far are two in Hong Kong, a Pomeranian and a German shepherd, both of whose owners had the virus. Neither animal showed any signs of disease, although the Pomeranian, which was 17 years old and had known heart problems, subsequently died after it was released from quarantine.
“Infections of dogs and cats are possible, but they’re very rare,” says Jane Sykes, PhD, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s probably much more difficult for dogs and cats to become infected than for humans to become infected.”
Besides the cases cited above, there have been no other reports of pets, livestock, or zoo animals contracting the novel coronavirus in their natural environment. In Hong Kong, 23 additional animals — 15 dogs and 8 cats — have been tested, and none were…