A Tiger Has Contracted COVID-19. Should We Be More Worried About Pets?

A Tiger Has Contracted COVID-19. Should We Be More Worried About Pets?

In case anyone needed more proof that we’re in an almost unprecedentedly surreal times, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has become the first animal to contract COVID-19 in a real-world scenario and actually display symptoms.

Sorry… what? Now? Right after news that the Tiger King himself has been quarantined for the same illness, pending a positive test result?

Yes. Apparently after the 4-year-old tiger, Nadia, began displaying a dry cough and loss of appetite, she tested positive for COVID-19, which Bronx Zoo officials believe was transmitted from “a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms.”

According to the WABC report, six other big cats at the zoo are displaying similar symptoms, but are all expected to make a full recovery—Carole Baskin, rejoice!

It’s still unclear how susceptible animals, particularly those in close contact with humans, are to the novel coronavirus. Nadia the tiger is the first animal in the U.S. to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and according to AP News, no pets or livestock have tested positive for it… yet.

Outside of the U.S., scientists have found in small studies some animals may be vulnerable to the coronavirus. According to a Chinese study, house cats are vulnerable to COVID-19 and have the ability to pass the infection from feline to feline. The study did not find substantial evidence of feline to human transmission; if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, our furry friends may have more to fear from us than we do from them—though Nadia is the first symptomatic animal COVID-19 case. The Belgian house cat diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March, along with both of the dogs in Hong Kong who tested positive for it, likely picked up the virus from human contact.

For anyone concerned about passing COVID-19 to their pet, the CDC has laid out a relatively straightforward set of guidelines: Minimize contact (this means no kissing, cuddling or food-sharing), have someone else take over pet care if possible, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after any care-taking if it’s not. Basically, pet owners just need to do what they would anyway: treat their pet just like any other family member, and take precautions accordingly.

Precautions have already been taken to keep our doggies distanced: Dog parks in New York City, Knoxville, Burlington, and Winston-Salem have all been temporarily closed over COVID-19 concerns. While this generally seems to be an effort to enforce human self-isolation, it could have protective benefits for our four-legged friends, to boot.

Zoo officials also answered the inevitable question: How did a tiger get tested for COVID faster than anyone who isn’t famous or like, quasi-famous?

Per a statement from the Bronx Zoo: “You cannot send human samples to the veterinary laboratory, and you cannot send animal tests to the human laboratories, so there is no competition for testing between these very different situations.”

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