Coronaviruses and pets

General Information Health

Did you know that there are several types of coronavirus? According to the WHO, there is no evidence that our pets can be infected with the one that hatched in China, 2019-CoV, which everyone is talking about. However, there are other types of coronaviruses that can affect our little friends. 

For a few days, the word “coronavirus” has been on everyone’s lips to speak of a new virus of the family of (2019-nCoV) which has been detected in Wuhan in China, especially since the World Health Organization ( WHO) has agreed that this outbreak meets the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern.

So far, this new coronavirus has not affected animals. This should reassure pet owners about this.

Species-specific viruses

Knowing this, did you know that there are other coronaviruses that can affect our pets? In fact, when we talk about coronaviruses, we are talking about a large family of viruses, the coronaviridae , which have a similar basic structure: they have an envelope that looks like a crown, hence its name “corona”, which means crown. Therefore, different coronaviruses have been identified in mammals and birds over time. These are usually associated with gastrointestinal illnesses or respiratory illnesses. Some of these viruses produce mild symptoms and others are more severe. 

So far, in the case of cats and dogs, they can carry certain coronaviruses, but these are specific to the species: they cannot therefore transmit them to us. That said, hygiene is still a must and you should always wash your hands to avoid other diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans (and vice versa) such as salmonellosis, for example. 

HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF CORONAVIRUS ONLY IN PETS 

  • In dogs, canine coronavirus can cause mild symptoms of gastroenteritis and is usually spread through the stool. Infected animals are often young. Animals often catch this virus in shelters or farms, places where there are several dogs.
  • In cats, another coronavirus also spreads via the faeces and generally causes mild digestive clinical signs (diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia). Unfortunately, sometimes this virus mutates and causes a condition called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a deadly disease. 
  • In ferrets, a coronavirus identified in 1993 is believed to cause epizootic catarrhal enteritis in ferrets, a disease that also spreads through stool and causes diarrhea that is almost lime green in color. More recently, a systemic coronavirus (FRSCV) has been identified in ferrets and produces symptoms similar to FIP in cats.
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