BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas – Although COVID-19 is most commonly spread from human to human, household pets are no exception to the virus.
According to Texas A&M University researchers, two cats have tested positive for COVID-19 in Brazos County so far. Both of them are asymptomatic and were in different households with people that were also COVID-19 positive.
Researchers said that, based on this evidence, it is possible for pets living in “high-risk” households with residents who are COVID-19 positive in Brazos County and other surrounding areas to become infected.
“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?” Dr. Sarah Hamer said in a statement. “It’s really exciting that research teams are beginning to respond to the crisis in this way.”
In the study, Hamer partnered with Gabriel Hamer and Rebecca Fischer to recruit participants for the study, sample pets at each household and test the samples in their laboratory facilities, according to university researchers.
“By actively screening pets who may not be symptomatic and who are living with people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Dr. (Sarah) Hamer’s project provides important new information about the transmission pathways of the virus,” said Interim Dean Dr. John August in a statement. “This project reflects the dedication and leadership of scientists from three of our colleges at Texas A&M University, working together with a One Health approach to improve animal and human health and to address this serious pandemic.”
More household pets, aside from the two cats that have tested positive, are still being tested.
“At the time we collected samples from these cats at their houses, the owners did not report any signs of disease in their pets during the course of their own illnesses, but one of the cats later developed several days of sneezing after we tested it,” Sarah Hamer said.
The study is designed to indicate if pets can become infected with the coronavirus in high-risk households. Researchers said they plan to repeat the sampling of any pets that test positive for COVID-19.
The research team will also conduct antibody testing for all pets in the study to learn more about the animals’ infections and exposure, officials said.
To learn more about the study, click here.