Two state agencies are currently investigating whether a cat in Opelika died of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries stated in an announcement that the Thompson Bishop Sparks State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Auburn detected an initial positive test on the cat. The results were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories this week.
However, veterinary pathologists found significant lesions in the cat’s nervous system which usually indicate bacterial infections, suggesting that the virus was not the primary cause of death. An investigation is continuing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that, in nearly all animal deaths associated with the virus, animals had multiple infections or underlying health issues at the same time. Thus far, less than 10 animal deaths in the U.S. are thought to have been associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Public Health Veterinarian Dee W. Jones said there seems to be no evidence suggesting that companion animals are responsible for infecting people.
“There is still a lot we just don’t know about how frequently animals become infected, so this has been an opportunity for us to gather information that might help us prevent more infections in companion animals,” Jones said.
Pet owners who are sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals, and arrange for another household member to care for pets while under isolation. Contact includes petting, holding, snuggling and facial contact. Those infected should wear a mask and wash their hands before feeding or tending to the pet if alternate care is unavailable.
To request a SARS-CoV-2 test for a pet, a household member must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the preceding 14 days, and the animal must exhibit respiratory symptoms and have had direct exposure to the owner.