Is COVID being spread by pets? According to the study, it's less frequent with Omicron, but other species are at greater risk.
According to a new study published this week by Spanish experts, just 10% of household dogs whose owners had Omicron contracted the virus and none were symptomatic, making them unlikely candidates to mutate and disseminate a more severe variant of COVID.
Between December and March, fifty dogs, 28 cats, and one rabbit in Spain were tested for COVID-19 during their owners' quarantine. Researchers stated in the study, which was published Wednesday on the research preprint site medRxiv, that none of the participants had symptoms, and just a tenth tested positive. The viral counts were low in those that tested positive, making the pets less likely to spread the often fatal infection.
According to the study, other COVID variants such as Alpha and Delta were more easily transmitted to household pets, infected pets were more likely to develop symptoms, and larger viral loads were observed in the pets.
Concerns have been raised concerning the virus's ability to spread from humans to other species, such as household pets, where it could evolve and mutate into a more hazardous strain.
The findings of the study on Omicron in domestic pets differ from those of a study on Omicron in minks that was published earlier this year. It discovered widespread Omicron infection in minks, with many showing signs and some developing lesions. According to the study, white-tailed deer are similarly extremely susceptible to Omicron, despite their infrequent contact with humans.
COVID has been detected in wild leopards, hyenas, and hippos in zoos, as well as pet ferrets and hamsters, and it is spreading rapidly in some species, such as minks and white-tailed deer. When compared to prior COVID variants, Omicron has been detected in turkeys, chickens, and mice, suggesting that a greater range of animals may be susceptible.
COVID is assumed to have started in bats and then spread to people via civet cats, nocturnal species related to mongooses that live in Europe, Asia, and Africa. According to a 2021 document published on the US National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine website, MERS, another coronavirus first found a decade earlier, is considered to have originated in camels.