Monday, May 3, 2021

Cases of human-to-cat COVID-19 transmission have been identified

Lung samples of one of the infected cats revealed damage to the lungs consistent with a viral pneumonia and there was evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.


A team of scientists at the University of Glasgow has identified two known cases of human-to-cat COVID-19 transmission in the UK.

In the study, led by the University of Glasgow, researchers describe two cases of human-to-cat SARS-CoV-2 transmission, found as part of a COVID-19 screening program of the feline population UK.

Different breeds

The cats, both different breeds, came from two separate homes and displayed mild-to-severe respiratory symptoms.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC)-the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), in partnership with the Veterinary Diagnostic Service of the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine, think both cats were infected by their owners, who were also displaying COVID-19 symptoms before the cats becoming sick.


The initial cat was a four-month-old female ragdoll kitten from a household in which the owner exhibited symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection at the end of March 2020, although the owner was not tested.

The kitten was presented to its veterinary surgeon in April 2020 with trouble breathing; however, the cat’s condition deteriorated, and it later had to be euthanized. Postmortem lung samples later showed damage to the lungs consistent with viral pneumonia, and evidence existed of SARS-CoV-2 infection.


The second cat was a six-year-old female Siamese from a household where one owner tested positive for COVID-19.

The cat was brought to the vet with nasal discharge and conjunctivitis, but these clinical signs remained mild, and the cat later recovered.

COVID-19 infection was demonstrated in the cat as part of a UK-wide COVID-19 feline screening program, and the APHA confirmed this.


Researchers at the CVR completed full genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome in cat two and found it was quite similar to viral genomes circulating in humans.

The researchers found no indication of species adaptation in the cat’s viral sequences. They concluded that any mutations present in cat two’s viral genome were likely also present in the owner’s virus. However, the genome sequence from the owner was not available for observation.


At present, no evidence of cat-to-human transmission exists or that cats, dogs, or other domestic animals play any role in the epidemiology of human infections with SARS-CoV-2. Whether cats with COVID-19 could naturally transmit the virus to other animals or back to humans remains unknown.

However, scientists believe these two known cases of human-to-cat transmission in the UK are likely to underestimate the true frequency of human-to-animal transmission, as animal testing is limited.

Transmission role

Margaret Hosie from the MRC-University of Glasgow CVR, lead author of the study, said: “These two cases of human-to-animal transmission, found in the feline population in the UK, demonstrate why it is important that we improve our understanding of animal SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

“Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high. However, as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans.

“It is, therefore, essential to improve our understanding of whether exposed animals could play any role in transmission.”


Since the pandemic began, there have been reports of cats from COVID-19 households in Hong Kong, Belgium, the US, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy, Chile, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Switzerland, and Latvia that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were presumed to be infected from their owners.

Naturally occurring SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in cats, non-domestic cats, and dogs. Scientists have also shown that cats, ferrets, and hamsters are susceptible.

This study was funded by the Wellcome ISSF COVID Response Fund and supported by the MRC.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Old Dogs, New Research: We may have been off when aging dogs


Dogs mature more quickly than we do. Many one-year-old dogs have reached their full height, and most will have gone through puberty or be nearing the end of it, so they’re not the equivalent of a seven-year-old child.

Most specialists agree that a dog that has just turned one is equivalent to a human around 15. However, these age calculators usually adjust their calculations based on how long certain breeds are expected to live.

It’s customary to read statements that say dog breeds age at different speeds, with some dog breeds aging much faster or slower than others. But today, I want to look at whether this is true.

Scientific review

I have searched through scientific publications on signs of behavioral aging and development in dogs aiming to work out at what age a dog can be considered a puppy, juvenile, adult, senior or geriatric.

In my review, I have concluded that evidence exists to suggest a one-year-old dog is indeed still juvenile just coming out from puberty and that dogs don’t become mature adults until they’re two, which marks the end of adolescence (equivalent to when people are aged around 25).

Senior or geriatric?

I also found that dogs can be considered to be entering their senior years (when an animal is older, but typically still quite healthy) at age seven and that they can be classified as a senior (a stage of aging where poor health or death becomes most likely) at age 12 and older.

The average lifespan of a pet dog is 12 years (across all breeds). Still, some dog breeds live on average far shorter lives than others, and it is common to adjust a dog’s age category by their breed life expectancy to decide when they are “senior” or “geriatric.”

Dying younger

Certain dog breeds are expected to have shorter lifespans, with some, such as the great Dane, having an average life expectancy of just six years.

These dogs do decline quickly in terms of their health, meaning they need additional veterinary care when they’re much younger than other dogs. But while their bodies may be impacted by health problems when they’re still young, there’s no evidence that short-lived breeds are aging in the true sense of the word, as behaviourally, they appear to be following the same trajectory as other dogs.

Basically, short-lived dog breeds are not aging faster – they are simply dying younger.

Health issues

The language we use to describe dogs and consider their age matters. By saying that these dogs are aging faster and using language such as ‘geriatric’ to describe an objectively still young dog and a dog that should be in the prime of its life, we’re masking the health and welfare issues associated with certain breeds of dog. 

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