Public safety dependent on understanding COVID-19 in pets

Future research should explore if novel coronavirus can be spread among livestock, poultry, and companion animals

Determining the impact of COVID-19 on companion animals and livestock is an imperative aspect of understanding the virus and planning future public safety measures.

This is according to a newly published critical needs assessment featured in the journal, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

The article, coauthored by Jürgen A. Richt, DVM, PhD, of Kansas State University’s (K-State’s) College of Veterinary Medicine; Tracey McNamara, DVM, Diplomate ACVP, of Western University of Health Sciences; and Larry Glickman, VMD, DrPH, MPH, of Purdue University, stresses the importance of studying how COVID-19 can spread between humans and animals.

“We need to address these challenges in a scientific manner—in a proactive manner, not in a reactive manner,” Dr. Richt says. “With COVID, every day something is new—what was correct yesterday could be wrong today.”

The scientists say future research should focus on several key areas, including:

  • the potential for companion animals to carry the virus;
  • the economic and food security effects if the virus can be spread among livestock and poultry; and
  • concerns related to national security, particularly regarding service animals used to detect narcotics or explosives, as COVID-19 can affect the sense of smell.

“If dogs are susceptible and lose their smell and taste, it could affect our national security,” Richt explains. “If livestock are also susceptible, it could significantly affect food safety and food security, too.”

His recent research, which is being conducted at the K-State Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI), suggests pigs are not susceptible to the virus; however, its impact on cattle, sheep, chickens, and wildlife is still unknown.

“A Critical Needs Assessment for Research in Companion Animals and Livestock Following the Pandemic of COVID-19 in Humans” has been published in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. To access it, click here.

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