Updated: Apr 20, 2020
I have been asked many times whether pets, including poultry, can spread Coronavirus. I am going to try and answer that question for you.
Coronaviruses are a very large family of viruses. Within this family are many viruses, including part of the common cold complex, SARS, and the novel COVID-19 which affect people, and other viruses which affect only other species e.g. Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) of poultry, Feline Coronavirus which causes Feline Infectious Peritonitis in cats, Bovine coronavirus which is a pneunmoenteric virus in cattle or Transmissible gastroenteritis virus in pigs. There are many different coronaviruses which do not affect people, but cause different diseases in different species.
Some pathogens (including bacterial, viruses and fungi) are able to cause disease in both animals and humans. These are called zoonotic pathogens. SARS is an exampled of a coronavirus which originated in animals but has spread to people. It is likely that COVID-19 also “jumped” from an animal species. Fortunately, however, this occurrence is extremely rare.
The impressive, yet irritating, thing about coronaviruses is they are good at mutating so we do not know what they will do next. Poultry vets have a lot of experience with Coronavirus of poultry (IBV) and we spend a lot of our time identifying and vaccinating for various strains only to see them mutate again. They doesn’t do this at the same rate as the influenza virus (Flu) but still causes us a significant challenge.
So, at present there is no risk to humans from their pets, however they can still “carry” the virus i.e. if someone with COVID-19 sneezes virus onto your dog then the virus will be on your dog. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control states “The virus can survive on different surfaces from several hours (copper, cardboard) up to a few days (plastic and stainless steel)”. We do not know how long it can survive on fur. DO NOT use anything other than pet shampoo to clean your animals. Many household chemicals e.g. bleach can seriously harm them. Human, even baby, shampoos are also often irritating to animal skin and very drying so can make them sore.
The take away message of this blog is…continue to practice good hygiene around your pets. We can all become complacent as we grow to love them. I am guilty of it too. I have been making a concerted effort to make my son wash his hands before eating if he has cuddled our cat, but I should have been doing this all along!
1. Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
2. Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.