No evidence COVID-19 can spread to people from pet fur, AVMA says

BVA is taking the opposite view, saying animals can act as fomites for the virus

Two veterinary associations are offering differing opinions as to whether animals can act as fomites for COVID-19.

In a statement on its website, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning pet owners that cats from infected households or where their owners are self-isolating should be kept indoors, except for stress-related medical reasons.

The announcement came on the heels of a study published last week on the website of the journal Science that found cats can become infected with the novel coronavirus and spread it to other cats through respiratory droplets. In related news, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 and several lions and tigers at the facility are displaying clinical signs of respiratory illness. It is believed the tiger contracted the illness from a zoo employee who was actively shedding the virus.

“It is also the case that animals can act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs,” says BVA, referring to a recent briefing note from the U.K.’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). “That’s why our main advice for pet owners continues to be to practice good hand hygiene.”

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is taking a different position on the fomite issue.

“At this time, there is no evidence SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets,” says AVMA president John Howe, DVM. “So, there is no reason you need to wipe down leashes or your pet after returning from a walk, unless your pet or its collar/leash has become soiled.

“Irrespective of COVID-19, you should be practicing good hygiene during interactions with your pet, including washing your hands before and after handling your pet or its food, supplies, and waste, and keeping your pet clean and its food, water, and bedding fresh.”

Both associations stress there is no evidence pets can pass COVID-19 to their owners.

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