2021 doesn’t seem to be letting up, and scientists are now saying that you may need to get your dogs and cats vaccinated to help fight against the coronavirus.
Scientists are warning us about the “significant long-term risk to public health” due to viral evolution in an editorial published in the medical journal Virulence.
Dr. Linda Saif, a professor at Ohio State University of Veterinary Medicine, said, “I think the questions are how common are the infections in animals, especially dogs and cats, but also farmed and domesticated animals?” She said that animal scientists are most concerned about minks, in light of the outbreaks occurring at mink farms around the world.
They saw viral evolution and transmission of COVID-19 from minks back to humans in Denmark, where 17 million minks were culled. Mink also had extreme symptoms caused by the virus.
“All the other animals that have been surveyed, none of them get this severe disease,” said Saif.
Even though there is no evidence right now showing that the virus can spread to humans from pets, there is evidence that it can infect dogs and cats, but the CDC is categorizing the risk as low.
“I’ve been in contact with Idexx Laboratories, they’re running tests, looking to see if we can document COVID-19 in our pets, and we’re just not finding very many cases that would be supportive of a high level of concern,” said Dr. Frank Krupka of Avon Lake Animal Clinic.
Saif says it’s necessary to get the vaccine for pet owners and animal caregivers to try to decrease the amount of virus shedding.
“Over precaution is never a bad thing. You know here at the Avon Lake Animal Clinic, we’re wearing masks, and we’re sanitizing, doing our part to make sure we’re not spreading disease,” Krupka said.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says people shouldn’t panic or consider abandoning their pets.
“I don’t want people living in fear of living with their family members, their pets. They’re part of our families; no one should be getting rid of their animals over this,” Krupka said.
Researchers are saying that more surveillance of these domesticated animals is needed before possibly developing a vaccine. As a precaution, the CDC recommends keeping pets away from sick people and anyone outside their immediate household.
A statement released by AVMA on the issue reads:
While it has been hypothesized that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) may have originally been transmitted to people via an animal host, COVID-19 remains primarily a human disease, with primary means of spread being people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet).
At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines licensed for use in animals in the United States, nor is there any indication that animals playing any significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people, and human vaccination remains the number one priority.
We are aware that data has been submitted to the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics as part of an application for a vaccine in mink; however, the USDA CVB has also stated that “Currently, CVB is not accepting license applications for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for use in dogs or cats because data do not indicate such a vaccine would have value.”
Because we know that dogs and cats can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends those ill with COVID-19 restrict contact with their pets, just as they would restrict contact with other people. We don’t currently have evidence that either dogs or cats transmit the virus back to people.
Pet owners shouldn’t panic or consider abandoning their pets during the pandemic. Instead, people should wear a mask, practice social distancing, use good hygiene, and social distance their pets from people who are ill or not part of their immediate circle and other animals that are unfamiliar. These are simple steps you can take to protect you and your pets.