"It’s sensible to know the signs of COVID-19 in pets so that you can keep an eye out"
It has always been very important for every pet owner to recognize the symptoms of an ill pet while at home. With the arrival of COVID-19 in our daily lives, many families have begun to show interest in understanding the symptoms of a pet that possibly contracted the virus. In this article, we look at these behavioral signals to better understand how to act.
Symptoms of COVID-19 in pets
There are very few cases of animals being infected with COVID-19 at the moment. Considering the huge numbers of people involved, there are only very sporadic reports of COVID in pets - despite lots of testing. And although it appears to be possible for humans to give COVID to their pets, there is not yet any evidence that pets can give COVID-19 to humans, or even that they can pass it pet-to-pet.
Despite this, it’s sensible to know the signs of COVID-19 in pets so that you can keep an eye out. The only dogs to have had a positive test for coronavirus have not showed specific symptoms. Many have been tested and found by chance, rather than because they are ill. Those that are ill are generally only a little lethargic, or have mild diarrhoea. Cats, on the other hand, may display signs of upper respiratory tract infection, much like people do. Your cat may have a mild cough, recurrent sneezing, or eye or nose discharge. They may also have non-specific symptoms like lethargy and vomiting and diarrhoea have been reported also.
What should I do if I think my pet is ill?
If you are concerned that your pet is showing signs of illness, the best thing to do is to talk to a veterinarian. Whilst many things may need a physical examination, sometimes you just want to talk to a qualified person to chat about your concerns before you go any further. And this is even more true if you’re concerned that your pet may have coronavirus, or if you yourself are sick or isolating.
Telehealth is a great way to get advice and treatment for your pet without attending a clinic. KeepPet allows you to contact a qualified veterinarian to talk through your concerns without risking your health, your pet’s health, or the health of your pet’s usual veterinary team. Simply download the app, choose a payment plan, and arrange to call at a time convenient to you.
If your pet is showing signs of severe illness or injury, it’s usually best to call the nearest open veterinary clinic to discuss an emergency visit. Signs of an emergency include:
- A breathing rate of over 40 when resting / sleeping
- Panting in a cat
- Severe bleeding
- Broken limbs
- Unable to urinate, straining
- Problems with giving birth
- Collapsed, unable to stand
- Unconscious, or losing consciousness
- Seizure lasting more than 3 minutes
- Severe recurrent vomiting - even if nothing is coming up
- Suspected or known toxin ingestion / poisoning
If you’re not sure whether your pet is showing symptoms that would be considered an emergency, the best thing to do is to call for qualified veterinary advice immediately, so that a triage assessment of your pet can be undertaken and the correct advice given.
What should I do if I think my pet has coronavirus?
At the moment, the only cases of coronavirus in pets have been traced back to their owners. So, if your pet has coronavirus, it’s very likely that someone in your family is infected. You should not attend the veterinary clinic. Instead, have a discussion with a qualified vet using telemedicine to identify whether your pet is likely to have the disease. Remember, despite millions of human cases of coronavirus worldwide, only a handful of pets have been diagnosed with COVID-19 - so the chances are high that it’s something else. But it’s important that you talk to a vet to confirm the symptoms and get personalised advice. In the meantime, do not let your pet out of the house. Because all of the cases of pet COVID-19 have come from infected members of the household, you and your family should stay inside until a decision has been made whether your pet needs to be tested or not. Thankfully, using KeepPet means you can quickly contact a vet and discuss your concerns - so you shouldn’t be stuck inside too long!
Can my pet be vaccinated against coronavirus?
Yes and no. A ‘coronavirus’ is a large group of related viruses shaped like a crown. Dogs have a coronavirus that causes diarrhoea, and so do cats. These coronaviruses cannot infect humans. Most cats will have contracted and recovered from coronavirus as a kitten, so vaccinations are not very useful in cats - by the time they’re old enough to be vaccinated, most of them have had and recovered from the disease. Dogs, on the other hand, do occasionally get vaccinated against coronavirus, depending on local disease risks. However, this vaccination does not protect them against the human coronavirus.
If you have concerns about your pet, you should contact a veterinarian in the first instance. Our veterinarians at KeepPet are easy to contact without the risk of leaving the house, and are able to provide telehealth services and remote assessment of your pet, as well as giving you advice. However, in an emergency, it may be best to contact your local veterinarian so that they can examine and treat your pet hands-on.