A lot of people don't know whether their pets are safe from the coronavirus. If that sounds like you, don't worry! Here's a complete guide on how to get COVID-19, so keep reading!
Coronaviruses are viruses that originate in animals, so it's really not that surprising that dogs or cats can develop this virus as well. In fact, the Covid-19 is not the only coronavirus that may affect the pet and induce potentially severe symptoms.
Symptoms of coronavirus in animals
At the very beginning, the infected animal may not display any signs and symptoms. Although the exact symptoms in animals are unknown, they are thought to be similar to those of humans. In other words, the infected animal experiences symptoms that affect the respiratory tract and start coughing, sneezing, wheezing. The infected dog or cat can also experience diarrhea and vomiting. If your pet has these symptoms, it's useful to take it to the veterinarian, who will carry out the laboratory tests to uncover the root cause. Affected animals can also display signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and blood or mucus in diarrhea.
There are multiple strains of coronaviruses in dogs and cats. Symptoms can range in intensity from mild to severe with potentially deadly scenarios. What every pet owner wants to know is how to keep a dog or cat safe from coronaviruses. It is important to know that cats can spread coronavirus to other cats, but they can't transmit it to dogs and vice versa. So if you have both dog and cat and one of them has some strain of coronavirus, you won't have to wonder if there's a risk one pet would infect the other.
Coronavirus Strains In Dogs
The current strains include canine respiratory coronavirus, canine enteric coronavirus, and pantropic canine coronavirus.
Canine respiratory coronavirus
Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), widespread in North America, Japan, and some European countries, was first identified in 2003 and is considered betacoronavirus. This virus is genetically similar to the bovine coronavirus and human coronavirus that induces common cold in humans. The CRCoV was identified from samples obtained from respiratory tracts of dogs that were housed in animal shelters in the United Kingdom. The animal shelter had a high turnover of dogs and was reporting problems with the enzootic respiratory disease despite the fact the dogs were vaccinated. An investigation into pathogens showed the dogs had a serious health problem. The dogs had the canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), which prompted scientists to conclude that CRCoV plays a role in the early stages of this serious condition by limiting ciliary clearance of upper airways. Although CRCoV was first identified in 2003, one of the earliest samples that tested positive for this virus stem from 1996, and they were obtained in Canada. One of the reasons that prevented the earlier discovery of this virus is its poor growth in cell culture and the requirement for specific growth cells.
In most cases, dogs with CRCoV have mild symptoms consisting of sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge. It's also possible that some dogs have a subclinical infection without noticeable signs and symptoms. Although progression to pneumonia is rare in CRCoV, it's still possible. Although CRCoV is connected to CIRD in most cases, it was also detected in dogs with non-respiratory disease. What's more, this type of coronavirus in dogs was detected in the lungs, spleen, mesenteric lymph nodes, and intestines of a dog that died from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. The dog also tested positive for CCoV, which is discussed below.
Nowadays, there are tests that vets perform using nasal or oral swabs. The specific antiviral therapy for CRCoV infection doesn't exist. Treatment revolves around supportive therapy based on clinical signs. Due to the fact this infection is highly contagious, the infected dogs must be kept in isolation for at least three weeks, which is the average time dogs are kept in quarantine for respiratory viruses. Just like with many other types of coronaviruses, there is no vaccine that could prevent canine respiratory coronavirus.
Despite the fact there are vaccines for some types of coronaviruses, such as CCoV, they are unlikely to prevent CRCoV due to the low similarity of genome sequences.
Canine enteric coronavirus
Canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV) is an alphacoronavirus that infects dogs and is closely associated with enteric coronaviruses present in pigs and cats. The virus is common in dogs, especially those that are housed in large groups such as shelters, kennels, and breeding facilities. It was first recognized as a pathogen of dogs after virus isolation of prototype 1-71 virus in 1971 during gastroenteritis outbreak in military dogs.
Like other coronaviruses, CCoV can mutate and lead to more virulent strains with potentially severe symptoms such as those associated with pantropic canine coronavirus. The infection causes mild or subclinical disease and generally occurs in puppies that are six weeks of age or younger, and it tends to be self-limiting. No specific treatment route or vaccine is available.
Pantropic canine coronavirus
At this point, pantropic canine coronavirus was only recorded in Europe, and there is no evidence to suggest it went beyond this continent. A great example of more severe types of coronavirus is the outbreak of fatal, systemic disease that affected seven pet shop dogs in the Apulia region, Italy, in May 2005. Dogs experienced symptoms such as fever, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurologic signs followed by death within two days after the onset of the first symptoms. Necropsy on the carcasses revealed severe lesions in the tonsils, alimentary tract, liver, lungs, spleen, and kidneys. Tonsils were also enlarged in the infected dogs, just like the spleen. Treatment of CCoV is directed towards the management of symptoms and maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. No preventive vaccines are available.
Coronaviruses in cats
There were two types of coronavirus in cats, and they are feline enteric coronavirus and feline infectious peritonitis.
Feline enteric coronavirus
Feline enteric coronavirus affects mainly domestic cats worldwide. The infection is generally subclinical and indicated by transient and mild gastrointestinal symptoms in kittens. In some instances, the infected cats can experience more serious symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as upper respiratory tract signs. Mild symptoms usually do not require treatment. Death caused by this type of coronavirus is uncommon in cats. However, the virus can mutate and lead to more serious problems. Cats become infected with feline enteric coronavirus through inhalation or ingestion of virus-containing feces or via contact with contaminated fomites such as housing, litter boxes, mutual grooming, and personnel. Although the virus itself is fragile, it can survive for up to seven weeks in a dry environment. Transmission is facilitated through close contact between cats.
Feline infectious peritonitis
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral infectious disease that affects both wild and domestic cats alike. The coronavirus that causes FIP was first isolated and characterized in 1970. The disease manifests itself in wet and dry forms, both of which are indicated by antibiotic-resistant fever, weight loss, anorexia, and lethargy. That being said, the wet form of FIP also involves a buildup of fluid in either the abdominal or chest cavity, but in some cases, fluid accumulates in both. The dry form of FIP includes the buildup of inflammatory cells or granulomas in various organs. If the liver is affected, the cat has jaundice, while the affected kidneys result in symptoms such as excessive urination and thirst, vomiting, and weight loss.
The disease can attack the eyes and the neurological system as well. Feline infectious peritonitis is fatal in 95% of cases. In mild instances of dry form, it is possible to prolong the cat's survival, but wet form results in death within two months of the appearance of the first signs and symptoms of the disease. Although the intranasal vaccine for the prevention of FIP was developed, it is considered controversial. While some veterinarians claim it can help, others state the vaccine offers little to no benefitxxii.