‘Protect your pet’: Richmond Wildlife Center explains the zoonotic properties of COVID-19


MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WRIC) — The United States has had its first animal test positive for the coronavirus, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. This has prompted some people to question why animals were being tested in the first place and what does this mean for pets?

Two dogs, two cats, and one ferret had tested positive for COVID-19 outside of the United States before the tiger at the Bronx zoo was confirmed positive.

Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be spread from humans to animals and from animals to humans. However, Melissa Stanley of the Richmond Wildlife Center said humans are much more likely to spread this virus to animals.

“The issue is take precautions to keep your pets healthy. You are the risk to your pet.”

Melissa Stanley

Stanley also urges people to be more careful around their pets in the home.

“The same thing that you are doing to protect yourself from other humans, you need to do to protect your pet,” Stanley said. “As far as sanitizing your pet, no. Just don’t sneeze on your pet, don’t cough on your pet.”

She said that testing animals is important to learning how the virus works, but it is not using the same COVID-19 tests that human patients would use.

“Keep in mind as far as testing animals go [that] veterinary laboratories are different than human laboratories so we are not utilizing tests that could be used on people,” Stanley said. “It may be a ferret that saves our lives. Australia is working on a vaccine right now using ferrets that is very promising.”

Stanley said that testing animals for the virus is important to learning how the virus works and time will tell how animals will be affected by the virus. The Bronx Zoo is also studying how animals with COVID-19 can help advance the understanding of the coronavirus.


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