MOREHEAD CITY — With reports of four domestic cats and a dog recently infected with the novel coronavirus, veterinarians say don’t be alarmed, but cautious.
“Dogs and cats can’t pass it to humans, but if humans with coronavirus are in close contact with their pets they can pass it to them,” Dr. Julianne Davis-Christ, veterinarian at Mitchell Village Animal Hospital said Wednesday. “There have been no reports of people catching COVID-19 from their pets.”
Recently, two doctors in Chapel Hill tested positive for coronavirus and are believed to have passed it to their dog. Dr. Davis-Christ said the doctors had been in close contact with their pet while they were sick.
“The dog slept with them,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, a small number of dogs and cats have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as a tiger at a zoo in New York. All the animals recovered.
Dr. Davis-Christ said, so far, she has tested one dog for coronavirus locally, and the results came back negative.
“The owner was a hospital employee and their dog was coughing,” she said. “We submitted a blood test and it was negative.”
She added that she is willing to do tests, “but the level of suspicion must be high. The owner must be positive and the pet must be showing respiratory symptoms. Usually the pet will be coughing.”
Dr. Davis-Christ said she is not overly concerned about the recent incidents, but said there are precautions pet owners can take to protect their animals.
“If you’re sick, don’t kiss your pet on the mouth. You should still be able to snuggle your pet. As new information comes out, we will more than likely change our protocol,” she said.
Dr. Jocelyn Romano, veterinarian at Beaufort Veterinary Hospital, said she has not tested any pets for coronavirus and was not overly concerned about the few incidents that have happened.
“When you look at the number of incidents, in the scheme of things I’m not concerned,” she said. “The animals presented mild respiratory symptoms and they all recovered.”
Dr. Romano also recommended precautions.
“What I recommend is if a person is positive for coronavirus they separate from their pet,” she said. “There’s no reason to give up or surrender their pet, but maybe have someone help with their care until the owner is better.”
She said for healthy pet owners, she recommends abiding by the same social distancing recommendations being used for humans.
“Don’t let your animal be exposed to other animals you don’t know,” she said. “Maintain the 6-foot rule and stay away from high density areas, like dog parks.”
Dr. Romano said if a pet owner has an animal displaying respiratory symptoms, they should contact their vet.
“More than likely it’s a virus common in dogs or cats, but when in doubt contact your vet,” she said.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.