Vets think the COVID variant may be far more dangerous for your pets

Small brown pet dog looking at camera - some pets have been affected by the COVID variant
Photo via De Leon Photography and Video/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Pets may be at heightened risk from the emerging variant strains of COVID-19. 

It is not yet clear if the B.1.1.7 strain of the virus is more transmissible between humans and pets than the original strain of the coronavirus, but veterinarians have raised concerns over a sudden uptick in domesticated animals displaying signs of myocarditis. While there is not yet a definitive link between the COVID-19 variant and heart problems in pets, vets are cautioning owners to be wary of sudden changes in their cats and dogs. Mice may additionally be at risk

The potential connection between the COVID variant and heart problems in pets has been noted by multiple vets. The original strain of the virus, which did pass to several animals, resulted in typically mild or non-existent symptoms.

This may not be the case with the variant. After noticing a concerning uptick in instances of myocarditis, vets began to examine the possibility that the COVID strain of the virus that first was found in the U.K. was at fault. Between December 2020 and February 2021, noted instances of the condition in pets jumped from 1.4% to 12.8%.

Symptoms that were tracked include “lethargy, lack of appetite, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, as well as severe life-threatening arrhythmia,” according to the Guardian

The sudden surge in myocarditis symptoms coincided with the variant’s rapid spread across the U.K., where the trend was noted. That led researchers to believe there may be a connection. Importantly, they noted that it appears the variant is only spreading from human to pet, rather than vice versa. It does not appear that the variant’s spread among pets will put humans at any additional risk.

A team from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development dug into the potential link between heart problems and the COVID variant through a series of studies. They examined 11 pets—eight cats and three dogs—who presented signs of cardiac abnormalities. None had previously been diagnosed with a heart condition. 

Of the seven pets that were tested, three were confirmed to currently be infected with the variant. Another two appeared to have already recovered from the virus. All of the pets, except for one, made a full recovery. 

Researchers are stressing that “there is no evidence pets were sick because of the virus.” As we all learned in science class, correlation does not equal causation. Just because these two things appear to be related does not mean they really are. Researchers want to make sure that pet parents don’t fly into a panic over the potential, but they are recommending they pay extra attention to any irregular symptoms in their pets. 

Read more about coronavirus variants:

Sources: Guardian, Science Mag, IFL Science

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