The WHO has changed its position on coronavirus and pets

Take care, both humans and pets
Take care, both humans and pets
Image: AP Photo/Mark Large
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Yesterday, the WHO’s coronavirus myth-buster page said there was no evidence that animals such as dogs or cats could be infected with virus. Today, that section is gone.

The WHO told Quartz in an email that, “currently, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats have infected humans with Covid-19.”

The revised stance comes in the wake of an infected dog being found in Hong Kong. The dog tested positive after remaining with its owners who were sick with the virus. The dog wasn’t showing any clinical signs of the disease, according to a report from World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).

At the time, the organization had found no evidence that dogs can spread the disease or that the disease can cause an animal to fall ill. While the risk of pets spreading Covid-19 to people is still considered to be low—an opinion shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the WOAH now reports that pets can show symptoms if they’re infected. Cats and ferrets tend to be more affected than dogs, sometimes displaying respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms.

The organization advises pet owners infected or susceptible of being infected with the coronavirus to avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of the household care for the animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible. More information regarding pet health amid the epidemic can be found on their website.

Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, advises pet owners to include animals in their family’s preparedness planning. She told Science that some animals might be quarantined in a hospital, or at home.

This story was updated with new information about the likelihood of pets displaying symptoms of Covid-19 infection.