Early results from a study out of Texas A&M show a connection between households with positive COVID cases in Texas and their pets carrying the virus.
In further exploring the degree to which pets are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a team led by Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Sarah Hamer is seeing evidence that pets living in “high-risk” households with people who have COVID-19 in Brazos County and the surrounding areas may also become infected with this virus. Brazos County includes Bryan-College Station and is home to Texas A&M University.
“We’re one of a few veterinary research groups across the country that are conducting similar investigations to provide an enhanced understanding about SARS-CoV-2 infections in pets — asking questions such as, are pets being exposed? Becoming infected? Can they spread the virus to humans or other animals? Do they get sick?” Hamer said. “It’s really exciting that research teams are beginning to respond to the crisis in this way.”
Since beginning their sampling of cats and dogs whose owners consented to their participation, the team has identified four asymptomatic pets, three cats and one dog from different households in Brazos County that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 while living in a household with a person who was diagnosed with COVID-19. Additional pets have confirmatory testing underway.
“We've sampled a lot of pets. So this certainly isn't a common finding, but we have evidence now that these pets in high risk households can become infected,” said Hamer. “Our study can't really tell much about the directionality, but the assumption would be that the pets have been infected through their contact with an infected owner.”
The study was not designed to test whether pets become infected from owners, or vice versa, Hamer said, but the findings indicate that pets can become infected in high-risk households and should be considered in the way households are managed as part of the public health response.