Two pet cats in New York have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), as just announced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).  See Confirmation of COVID-19 in Two Pet Cats in New York. 

The cats, who lived in different locations, not only tested positive, but exhibited clinical signs of respiratory illness, but are expected to recover, according to the agencies.  Exposure to infected people was reported in only one of the homes.

This result may change current recommendations not to conduct routine testing of pets.  But such testing is now available through at least one private veterinary laboratory-IDEXX-which announced that it can provide for testing for pets under the following conditions:

After consulting with a public health official IDEXX will test pets if,

  • Pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19 or has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
  • Pet has already been tested for more common infections, which a veterinarian has ruled out
  • Pet (especially cats and ferrets) is showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19.

The veterinary school at Tufts University is also providing testing of pets that are patients at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center upon receipt of an owner completed consent form (Patient Participation in Clinical Research Owner Consent Form)

Postdoctoral researcher Kate Sawatzki, the lead investigator for the study and professor and virologist Jonathan Runstadler, emphasize that there is no evidence of disease transmission from pets to humans, but believe that testing can provide proof that such transmission has not occurred.

The AVMA reminds the public that “routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the AVMA, CDCUSDAAmerican Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), or National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV).”

Tests used by IDEXX and the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center do not use ingredients or reagents approved for use in humans and are not available for human testing.

On the other hand, at least a few animal health diagnostic laboratories have announced that they will begin testing human specimens for evidence of COVID-19 infection-Oregon State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab  and the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine .  In both cases, the veterinary diagnostic labs have teamed up with local medical providers.

Whether testing pets or people, coordination with local, state and federal public and animal health regulators remains critical.