COVID-19: the latest from WSAVA

April 9, 2020
dvm360 Staff

The association shared with its global veterinary audience news of the first animal in the United States to test positive for the virus, plus preliminary international research on transmission and treatment.

When news of the COVID-19 pandemic first broke, there were many unknowns. Although much remains unclear today, new information is beginning to emerge as the world watches and studies this novel coronavirus.

In an effort to keep its global membership in the know, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has been sending periodic updates via email. This week, WSAVA’s message detailed the first positive animal case of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. and the latest clinical research findings.

COVID-19 in a Bronx Zoo tiger

WSAVA started its email by sharing the news of 4-year old Nadia, the Malayan tiger from the Bronx Zoo that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the source of infection appears to have been an asymptomatic employee who was unknowingly shedding the virus.

According to the USDA, “further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.” At this time, according to USDA, there are no plans to begin testing animals for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

Pet owners who have questions about their animal’s health should contact their veterinarian. If the pet was exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and is symptomatic for the virus, the veterinarian should contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

Clinical research updates

WSAVA also highlighted the latest research regarding COVID-19 and animals. Keep in mind that many of these emerging reports have not yet undergone peer review; thus they should not be considered conclusive at this time.

  • In an experimental study, some domestic cats inoculated with a high dose of SARS-CoV-2 developed clinical signs of disease and some were able to pass the virus to other animals housed in close proximity.
  • In a preprint study comparing samples from Wuhan cats collected both before and during the outbreak, anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were detected in 14.7% of the samples collected during the outbreak. This, according to WSAVA, suggests that “cats can be naturally exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and mount a serological response. Similar to previous reports of the cats quarantined in Hong Kong, shedding of virus in naturally exposed cats is either of short duration or of low levels.”
  • An in-press laboratory study from Australia suggests that the broad-spectrum antiparasitic ivermectin may help in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 infection, but too little is known at this time to make any clinical recommendations for its use in prevention or treatment of the virus.

Click here to read all of the member updates WSAVA has released during the outbreak.