As cases of monkeypox in the United States increase, it’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder what risks, if any, our furry friends face when hiding at home with their infected owners.
The bad news: We don’t know if dogs or cats can get monkeypox, according to the CDC. It is possible, however, that humans can transmit the virus to animals in general through petting, cuddling, sharing resting places and food and kissing.
Dogs and cats can contract other orthopoxviruses, such as vaccinia virus, which is used in smallpox/monkeypox vaccines, but this is not a problem at this time.
It is also not known if less conventional pets like gerbils, guinea pigs and hamsters can be infected with the virus. The CDC says domestic adult rabbits can “eventually” become infected, as well as mice and rats. Chinchillas and hedgehogs, other less popular pets, can get monkeypox.
Monkeypox is not endemic to the United States, meaning it does not naturally circulate in animals such as rodents as it does in Africa, where the virus sometimes jumps to humans who are bitten or scratched by them.
So far, there are no confirmed reports of sick people transmitting monkeypox to animals, the agency says. The last time pets caught monkeypox in the United States was in 2003, when domesticated prairie dogs were housed with imported rats and dormice infected with the virus. around 70 people have fallen ill in the US Midwest as a result.
The American Veterinary Medical Association also says the odds of you giving your pet monkeypox are “extremely low.”
“There is no evidence to date that dogs and cats are susceptible to monkeypox or can even serve as a reservoir,” said Dr. Katherine Quesenberry, chief medical officer at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York. York. “That doesn’t mean the risk is zero, but it’s just very unlikely to happen.”
And no, your pet can’t catch monkeypox on a walk or walk in the park, according to Carlos Romero, professor emeritus in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine. the University of Florida.
This does not mean that infected people should not take precautions around their pets.
“The information we have about the effects of monkeypox on pets in this country is not there,” Romero said. “It’s a big question mark, but it’s cause for concern, and potentially it’s possible because of what we’ve seen in the past with other species.”
What to do with your pets if you catch monkeypox
To err on the side of caution, people with monkeypox should avoid contact with pets, as well as wildlife, to avoid spreading the virus, the CDC and experts we spoke to said. You should also keep them away from your bandages or body fluids if you have monkeypox.
If you are the only one available to care for your pets, it is best to wash your hands before and after touching them. To be very careful, you can cover rashes or lesions with long sleeves, long pants or gloves. The CDC also suggests wearing a mask around your pets; although the virus is primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact, it can also be found in respiratory droplets and saliva.
Pets should stay in another home if possible until you recover in case you haven’t been in close contact with them.
Before welcoming your pet home, be sure to sanitize any linens, bedding, towels, toys or food bowls you may have touched and will come into contact with.
Romero said monkeypox is a “very tough virus” and is difficult to destroy because it is particularly tough in different environmental conditions. “It could remain on the ground protected for weeks, unlike the coronavirus which in a few minutes is destroyed.”
The CDC says researchers found that live monkeypox virus survived inside an infected person’s home for 15 days after they left. Studies also show that other related orthopoxviruses can survive in home environments for weeks or months, and that the viruses can live longer on porous materials like bedding and clothing than on non-porous materials like plastic. , glass and metal.
That said, the virus is susceptible to soaps, disinfectants, detergents and other cleaning products, according to the CDC. Thus, a simple wiping or washing in the detergent should destroy it.
What to do if your pet is exposed to monkeypox
If your pet is exposed to monkeypox, the CDC advises them to stay home and away from other people and animals for at least 21 days.
Some people, including those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, caring for young children, or have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema, should not care for an animal that has been exposed to monkeypox because they are at high risk of serious illness.
And if it wasn’t already obvious, don’t wipe or bathe your potentially infected pet with chemical disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, hand sanitizer, wipes, or other potentially hazardous cleaners not intended for animals.
Experts don’t know what monkeypox looks like in dogs and cats, but they suspect the symptoms are similar to those in humans and other infectious diseases, such as:
- Low battery
- Lack of appetite
- Secretions or crust from the nose or eyes
- Skin lesions or rashes that look like pimples or blisters
- Flu-like symptoms such as cough, runny nose, fever and red eyes
If you suspect your pet has monkeypox, you should call your veterinarian or local health authorities so they can track down the source of the infection (if it wasn’t you).
Can humans or pets spread monkeypox to other animals?
We have learned during the ongoing COVID pandemic that people can spread the coronavirus to domestic and wild animals, including lions, deer, tigers, dogs, cats, otters, hyenas and hippos. , in what scientists call “reverse zoonoses”.
Fortunately, the human-to-animal spread of COVID, as well as animal-to-animal transmission, has not, to our knowledge, led to an entirely new reservoir where the coronavirus can circulate. However, it makes sense to at least consider the chances of this happening with monkeypox.
Fortunately, the experts aren’t convinced we should care.
“It’s so far away at this point,” Romero said. “Someone would have to do something very, very crazy to infect wild rodents, and I can’t think of what.”
Quesenberry said she wouldn’t say there’s no risk, but there’s no evidence it happens in the event monkeypox gets out of hand.
As of August 4, there were 6,617 cases of monkeypox in the United States and 26,208 worldwide.