COVID-19 Alpha variant detected in four cats and two dogs for the first time, as vets warn virus can cause heart problems in animals
- The cases were reported by experts at The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre
- Three of the infections were identified by PCR tests, the other via antibodies
- They suffered from severe myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle
- All bar one of the pet animals recovered fully after a few days of intensive care
- The researchers said that transmission of COVID from owner to pet remains rare
Pets can be infected with the alpha variant of the COVID-19 virus, which can cause heart problems in the animals, veterinarians have warned.
Researchers led from The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre in Marlow report four cases of the variant detected in cats and two in pet dogs.
The alpha variant — also referred to as the ‘UK’ or ‘Kent’ variant, as well as lineage B.1.1.7 — was first detected in November in the south-east of England.
It went on to rapidly outcompete the pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 variants in the country as a consequence of its increased transmissibility and infectivity.
Pets can be infected with the alpha variant of the COVID-19 virus, which can cause heart problems in the animals, veterinarians have warned. Pictured: a dog being treated +2
Pets can be infected with the alpha variant of the COVID-19 virus, which can cause heart problems in the animals, veterinarians have warned. Pictured: a dog being treated
THE SIX PETS
According to the researchers, none of the cats and dogs with the alpha variant and severe myocarditis developed ‘flu-like symptoms.
Nearly all clinically improved after a few days of intensive care.
The exception was one 10-year-old Sphynx, who was presented again one week after discharge with a relapse of symptoms — including profound lethargy and uncontrolled ventricular tachycardia (accelerated heart rate.)
Based on the symptoms, the owners elected for euthanasia.
Two of the cats and one of the dogs were identified with the variant by means of a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, while the other three pets were found to have antibodies against it two–six weeks after displaying signs of cardiac disease.
All suffered from severe myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Many of these pets’ owners had themselves developed respiratory symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 three–six weeks before their animals became ill.
‘Our study reports the first cases of cats and dogs affected by the COVID-19 alpha variant,’ said paper author and veterinary cardiologist Luca Ferasin of The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre.
The findings, he added, ‘highlights, more than ever, the risk that companion animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2.
‘We also reported the atypical clinical manifestations characterized by severe heart abnormalities, which is a well-recognised complication in people affected by COVID-19 but has never described in pets before.’