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Don’t Abandon Your Pets! No Link That Animals Transfer COVID-19

“It is not common the the virus jumps species,” says critical care expert Dr Ray.

Published
Coronavirus
4 min read
Don’t Abandon Your Pets! No Link That Animals Transfer COVID-19
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Among the many stories arising from COVID-19 linked fears, comes a distressing one: cities across the globe are seeing an increase in abandoned pets as their owners fear their furry friends may be carriers of the disease.

Now, WHO has categorically said right from the beginning of the spread before it was declared a pandemic even, that there is no evidence to link animals to COVID-19.

Don’t Abandon Your Pets! No Link That Animals Transfer COVID-19

Recently, on Thursday,9 April, officials in Kerala were treading with caution as five stray cats wandered into a COVID-19 ward in a general hospital and passed away shortly after.

While a preliminary postmortem carried out did not detect any “trace of COVID-19”, experts opined that stress could be the reason behind the death of the cats, who were kept in a crate with little aeration after being caught.

FIT spoke to critical care expert Dr Sumit Ray to clear the air.

“It’s not very common that a virus jumps across species. There is no new evidence on a link between animals getting COVID-19 and transferring this to humans.”
Dr Sumit Ray, critical care specialist at Artemis Hospitals
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Meanwhile in Kerala, the animal husbandry department officials decided to send their vital organs of the cats -- two male, a female and her two kittens -- to the State Institute of Animal Disease Centre in Thiruvananthapuram for detailed examinations, reported PTI.

The Animal Husbandry Departments epidemiologist M J Sethulakshmi, part of the team of doctors who conducted the postmortem, said that "no signs" of COVID-19 could be detected during the procedure.

If needed, the organs would be sent to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) lab in Bhopal for further examination, Joseph, who is the Kasargod district coordinator of animal disease control project, said.

Dr Ray added that a postmortem by itself cannot prove or disprove COVID but “can only tell us if there were other associations to death.”

If we were doing COVID-19 tests for cats we may have more definite answers but among worries of low testing for humans - this may be a long shot.

Besides, for this case, experts, including Joseph, said they believe that stress could be the reason for the death of the cats.

“The stray cats were caged immediately. It is certain that they could not adapt to the situation in the crate. So we believe stress could be the reason for their death. But since it happened during COVID-19 scare we cannot take a chance.”
Joseph

The death of the cats come at a time when the government has put zoos in the country on highest alert and asked them to collect samples fortnightly in suspected cases after a tiger at a US zoo tested positive for coronavirus.

Veterinary Services & Feeding Stray Animals are Essential Services: Govt

‘The government has also recognized this, and veterinary services, street feeding – all continue to be essential services permitted during the lockdown.’
‘The government has also recognized this, and veterinary services, street feeding – all continue to be essential services permitted during the lockdown.’
(Photo: iStockphoto)
“Animals are hit hard during this lockdown, and unfortunately misinformation and rumors make their plight worse. The government has also recognized this, and veterinary services, street feeding – all continue to be essential services permitted during the lockdown.”
Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations

The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations is India’s apex animal rights body. Mehrotra urged people to try and help the stray animals near your house and care for pets who may feel stifled in the lockdown by doing the following:

  • Keeping water bowls outside your houses for the animals and birds
  • Leaving food in designated areas for street animals
  • Coordinating with other residents to ensure animals in their localities don’t go hungry
  • Maintaining the hygiene of companion animals and pets kept indoors
  • Ensuring any animals housed are kept mentally stimulated through indoor play, games etc. if they aren’t permitted to go on their daily walks

Plus, if you’re wondering how to help or face uncooperative housing societies, its best to connect with other people and organisations in the animal welfare space for support. Mehrotra suggests that we can “speak to local authorities or animal welfare organisations for assistance as they will have access to the right information and aid in such times.”

During the tense, uncertain times of the lockdown, there has been a rising mental health crisis too.

Animal rights organisations, and much research, point to the fact that in animals are great for our mental health - and are especially helpful during this time of stress.

Even just 10 minutes of interaction with cats and dogs produce a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone. Animals, especially dogs and cats can, therefore, help reduce stress, anxiety, depression and ease loneliness.

Studies show that dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality,” says Glenn N.Levine, Chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership. This makes keeping pets the healthier choice!

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Stay Calm and Don’t Abandon Pets

Besides, with over 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, if there truly was any evidence that said that animals could transfer the disease to humans, we would know by now.

Notably, there are certain types of coronaviruses that dogs may catch, such as the ‘canine coronavirus’. It can be transmitted among dogs and does not affect humans.

But the bottom line is this: world over, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 being transferred from animals to humans, and to evidence that points to this.

So stay calm and please don’t abandon your pets! And remember to extend the love to stray animals who depend on the goodness of strangers and are hit hard in this lockdown.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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