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Pandemic & Pets: Arizona researchers studying COVID-19 in cats and dogs

Updated: Mar. 14, 2021 at 9:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The pandemic has not left pets completely unharmed. Arizona researchers say more than 120 dogs and cats have contracted COVID-19 in the U.S. over the last year. Four were in our state; two cats and two dogs.

Now, work is being done to study the virus in animals.

“[We want to] learn something new about this virus and provide information to Arizona pet owners,” said Hayley Yaglom, a genomic epidemiologist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix.

Yaglom is leading a project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), which seeks to learn more about how COVID-19 is transmitted to pets and how it impacts them.

“Those [symptoms] are pretty similar to what we would see in people,” said Yaglom. “Difficulty breathing, high fever, kind of lethargy, not interested in eating. There have been a few animals that passed away from COVID-19 as well.”

Yaglom is looking for pet owners who have contracted the virus.

“So, within about the past two weeks and primarily those who are symptomatic because we think that increases the likelihood that spread of the virus could occur,” she said.

The goal is to follow 100 pets. Yaglom says researchers will take nasal and fecal swabs and a blood sample. Owners will be asked to fill out a questionnaire.

“So, if a pet tests negative versus positive, we can maybe look at our other information collected to see if maybe there is a reason why,” Yaglom said.

While dogs and cats can catch COVID-19, Yaglom says there is no significant evidence to suggest they can pass it on to humans. An experimental COVID-19 vaccine has been created for and used on animals.

Pet owners must be over the age of 18 to participate in TGen’s study. To sign up, email covidpetprojectaz@teg.org.

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