Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph vet college looks to test pets of COVID-19 patients

The University of Guelph wants to test the household pets of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, or have symptoms including a fever and a cough, to find out if their pets have been infected as well.

Study to determine transmission of virus between humans and pets

The vets can collect samples through a nasal swab similar to humans, fur samples and rectal swabs as Bienzle says 'there has been strong evidence to show the virus is spread through feces.' (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Researchers in Guelph are studying pets who have been living in quarantine with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or who has had symptoms including a fever and a cough.

Dorothee Bienzle, a veterinarian working in the department of pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph and her colleague Scott Weese are calling on pet owners to contact them for at test.

They will swab and test cats, dogs and ferrets to determine if there is a chance the novel coronavirus would carry between human and pet.   

"We think that pets are susceptible to infection from people," Bienzle said. "There's no evidence right now that in a household setting there is transmission from pets back to people or to other pets. But these are the sort of things that we don't really know yet and that we hope to find out."

The vets will collect samples through a nasal swab similar to those used on humans. Fur samples and rectal swabs are also collected as Bienzle says "there has been strong evidence to show the virus is spread through feces."

Bienzle says there are only a few cases where animals have become sick with the virus and recovered on their own.

"A dog in North Carolina was reported to cough and to not eat. So it was feeling ill," said Bienzle. "The same with the dog in Hong Kong and the experimentally infected cats and ferrets. [They] were coughing and had a fever."

She says any pet that was infected should be isolated from other pets to prevent the virus from spreading.

OVC will take samples from pets in Guelph and Waterloo region, as well as the Mississauga and Burlington area.

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