Can you give your pet COVID-19? Researchers want to find out

Health

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — LSU is asking pet owners for help to better understand COVID-19 in animals. They want to test animals exposed to the virus to see how it affects them.

Is it possible that you could give COVID-19 to your pets? That is what LSU researchers are trying to figure out as well as how the virus impacts them. The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab is teaming with the Department of Health and the CDC to learn more about how COVID-19 can impact cats and dogs.

“There are different variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus so we try to see where the variants are presenting in the animals that are the same as the humans,” said Udeni Balasuriya, Director of the Louisiana Animal Disease and Diagnostic Lab.

A vet will collect a swab from an animal potentially and recently exposed to the virus then send it to the lab to be analyzed. If they test positive, then the lab will want to ask about symptoms the pet may have.

“There’s not much information. First thing is to generate information by surveillance. That will help us to come up with mitigation strategies down the road,” Balasuriya said.

COVID-19 in pets is exceedingly rare with only about 295 across the whole country have tested positive. Only one cat and four dogs in Louisiana have tested positive and none died. But with variants and how the pandemic has changed, they hope to understand the virus’s impact.

“People should not worry about their pets. I think they’re perfectly safe and there is no report of transmission of virus from the pets to humans,” Balasuriya said. “There has been the other way. Very limited number of cases.”

The lab has tested 28 pets and several zoo animals since the start of the pandemic. Testing is free of charge through a veterinarian and if there is any mailing involved that also will be covered through a grant from the CDC. The test collections will go through Dec. 31.

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