When this COVID-19 began back in Dec 2019 in Wuhan (people were just referring to it as the "Wuhan Coronavirus"), some pawrents in mainland China were abandoning their dogs out of fear. These pawrents were doing so because they were afraid that the Wuhan Coronavirus may infect their pets, who may in turn pass the virus to them! (Because people were believing that this novel virus originated from live animals).
The abandonment of pets led to a major stress in the local animal welfare groups in mainland China. Thankfully, in Singapore, our local pawrents are quite a mature bunch of peeps! What is more concerning to some of our local pawrents is whether their pets will 'kena' the virus. Let's take a look at the major pet-related COVID-19 events that has happened so far, in chronological order:
On 28 Feb 2020, the first ever dog (a 17-year-old elderly pomeranian) was tested 'weak positive' with COVID-19. Its owner was a 60-year-old woman who was also tested positive on 25 Feb. Thus this very likely would make it the world's first human-to-animal transmission. But results were not conclusive as yet - whether it is possible for dogs to contract this virus, or it just happened that the dog's owner sneezed or cough on its face around the time that the samples were taken.
The senior pomeranian went on quanrantine from 28 Feb till 14 Mar 2020. During this period, the Hong Kong dog repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus after the initial 'weak positive' test. Thus, it finally went home on 14 Mar 2020.
Shortly after the pomeranian returned home from quarantine, it passed away on 16 Mar 2020. 😥 According to the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the pomeranian's final test upon its death displayed similarities in the virus genetic make up as infected humans. This strongly suggested that the infected humans likely infected the pomeranian (in this case, its owner). The cause of death was also likely not due to the virus alone, as the dog was aged and already had underlying illnesses.
On 19 Mar 2020, newspapers published that a second dog, a 2-year-old German Shepherd was infected as well. Its owner is also an infected patient. Together with another dog (the infected patient has 2 dogs), they are placed on quarantine. Professor Malik Peiris, a leading public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong also said that it is very likely that both cases happened due to human-to-animal transmission.
Then on 27 and 31 Mar 2020, a cat in Belgium and a cat in Hong Kong became the first two cats that test positive for COVID-19.
Veterinary Associations across the world have so far said that there is currently no evidence that pet-to-human transmission is possible. And all the 4 cases so far (2 dogs, 2 cats) are very likely to be human-to-animal cases, as the 4 pets' owners are all COVID-19 patients.
1. Please keep calm, treat your animal like how you will treat yourself and your family. Keep them safe.
2. If unwell, avoid kissing them or sneezing / coughing into their faces. (We know it may sound like a joke but we are quite serious)
3. If you are not feeling well, perhaps consider practising 'furkid distancing' too.
4. And never, ever consider abandoning them. Some pet owners actually went to abandon their pet out of fear. Thankfully, our SG pawrents are a mature bunch and will never contemplate abandoning their pets.
We should keep our furry animals safe at this crucial time.