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‘Down, boy!’ Pets in the house have caught Covid-19 from affectionate owners

About 20% of cats and dogs who live with humans carrying Covid-19 antibodies also had the antibodies, a study has found.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
About one in five pets will catch Covid-19 from their owners, a new Dutch study has found. Photo: Pexels
About one in five pets will catch Covid-19 from their owners, a new Dutch study has found. Photo: Pexels

Humans can transmit Covid-19 to their pets, according to a new Dutch study.

The study, conducted by Dr Els Broens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, found that a surprising number of cats and dogs have caught the virus from their owners.

“About one in five pets will catch the disease from their owners,” Broens told Reuters. “Luckily, the animals do not get very ill from it.”

Broens’ study examined 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households where people were known to have previously contracted Covid-19. Nearly 20% of the animals were found to have Covid-19 antibodies.

Then, after PCR testing the animals for coronavirus, it was found that six cats and seven dogs – accounting for just over 4% of the surveyed animals – had an active Covid-19 infection.

However, results from further tests suggested that the animals were able to quickly recover from the virus and did not pass it on to other pets within the same household.

Broens believes that one of the root causes of house pets catching Covid was the affection that their owners showed them.

“A lot of pet owners are in very close contact, like they sleep with their animals in their bed, so you can imagine that there’s close contact, so that transmission can take place,” she said.

Opportunities for owners to get especially close to their furry friends have increased in the various lockdowns forcing humans into spending previously unheard of amounts of time isolating at home.

It has long been speculated that the novel coronavirus was first identified in bats and since the pandemic’s early days, it has been known that non-human mammals were also able to get infected but a only a relatively small number of them became seriously ill from it.

Minks in particular have been known to become infected by humans who contracted Covid-19 and were able to pass on the virus to other humans too.

The veterinary medicine department head at Cambridge University, Professor James Wood, told the BBC that the study added to evidence suggesting that a huge number of cats and dogs were able to catch the virus from their owners.

“The Dutch study was robustly conducted and shows that around 20% of exposed pets may be infected and that they eventually clear the infection just as most humans do,” Wood said. “Most reports are that this infection appears to be asymptomatic in pets.”