KUALA LUMPUR: Pet owners in Malaysia have been asked not to be too alarmed about their pets being possible spreaders of the COVID-19 virus, and there was no need to subject the animals to coronavirus testing.
In a statement to address concerns on whether pets can transmit the virus to their owners, the Malaysian Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) said on Tuesday (Apr 7) that there were few COVID-19 cases involving pets so far.
“Although human COVID-19 infections are high, the cases among pets are isolated as pets cannot be infected naturally. To date, the source of infection for animals is from humans,” it said.
The DVS said that while pets can be infected with the coronavirus, it would only cause a mild infection on them.
The viral load in the animals is also too low to be transmitted to humans, it added.
The DVS also cited an excerpt from a report by the World Organisation for Animal Health, which stated further studies are underway to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the coronavirus.
The DVS' statement was issued following Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah's Monday Facebook post on pets and COVID-19 infections. He advised people to maintain good hygiene at all times, including when coming in contact with animals and pets.
On Monday, news broke that Nadia, a Malayan tiger and six other big cats at the Bronx Zoo in the United States, were infected with COVID-19 and showed minor symptoms, after coming into contact with an asymptomatic zookeeper. They were expected to make a full recovery, the zoo said.
The DVS also advised pet owners who suspect themselves to be infected with COVID-19 to distance themselves from their pets. Pet owners should also maintain their personal hygiene, while ensuring their pets welfare, it added.
DON'T ABANDON PETS IN FEAR OF INFECTION: VET
Malaysia Small Animal Veterinary Association (MSAVA) president Gopinathan Gangadharan stressed that there was no known cases of pet-to-human transmission of COVID-19.
Speaking to CNA, he urged pet owners not to panic and abandon their animals in fear of being infected, as animal welfare is governed by law.
“If you are sick or in quarantine and cant take care of the pet, you cannot just abandon the animal.
"If possible, ask a trusted family member to help you until youre well or consult your nearest veterinarian,” said Dr Gopinathan.
He added that currently in Malaysia, there are no veterinary clinic or private laboratory conducting tests for COVID-19 in animals.