GEORGE TOWN: Coronavirus contracted by household pets have been around for decades and is an entirely different strain compared to the newly-discovered Covid-19 that infects humans.
Veterinary surgeon Dr K. Pavabakaran said there is no new concrete evidence indicating cross-infections of these coronaviruses from animals to humans so far.
“The types of canine coronavirus that infect dogs are not the same as Covid-19 and this prompted researchers to look into the risks of these coronaviruses passing from animals to humans.
“While studies are ongoing, there is no new concrete evidence indicating such cross-infections so far.
“The coronavirus that affects pets, more commonly dogs, usually affects their gastrointestinal and digestive systems.
“This is different from Covid-19, which affects our respiratory system, ” he said yesterday.
Dr Pavabakaran said he has been offering vaccination for canine coronavirus at his clinic for over 25 years.
“As far as I am aware, there has never been any instance where humans were infected with the coronavirus that affects their pets.
“But we cannot say the same for Covid-19 and if it is safe for pet owners to be around pets if they contracted Covid-19.
“Because Covid-19 is relatively new, I personally think there is no harm in being cautious.
“If pet owners are down with Covid-19, or anyone at all catches Covid-19, they need to isolate themselves, even from their pets.
“Some concern is good in this case as it is always better to take precautions, ” he said.
Meanwhile, Penang Animal Welfare Society (4PAWS) founder Barbara Janssen, who noted an increasing number of pets being dumped during the pandemic, urged pet owners not to give up on their pets easily.
“Whether it is due to coronavirus scares or economic difficulties, pet owners should not simply dump their pets.
She also said the coronavirus that affects pets is totally different from Covid-19.
“It will not spread to humans. I have been around dogs for most of my life and I have never seen anyone infected by the strain that affects dogs.
“As such, there really is no reason to be concerned or scared of our pets based on viral posts or hearsay rumours, ” said Janssen whose shelter in Teluk Bahang now houses over 600 dogs.
At another shelter in Teluk Bahang, which houses over 300 cats, Cat Beach Sanctuary founder Teviot Fairservis said they get calls every day from the public or owners who are letting their cats go.
“Whether these people let go of their cats due to coronavirus scare or economic difficulties, we do not know, ” he said.