Cases of COVID-19 have been linked to instances of heart inflammation in cats and dogs.
The link was discovered in a new U.K. study published Friday in the journal Vet Record.
Prior to December 2020, about 1.5 percent of the pets brought to the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre in Buckinghamshire, England were diagnosed with myocarditis, or heart inflammation. However, between December 2020 and March 2021, that figure jumped to 12.5 percent.
“These were dogs and cats that were depressed, lethargic, they lost appetite,” Luca Ferasin, a veterinary cardiologist at the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre and one of the study’s authors, told NBC News. “And they had either difficulty breathing because of accumulation of fluid in their lungs due to the heart disease, or they were fainting because of an underlying abnormal heart rhythm.”
When Ferasin and his colleagues investigated, they discovered that many of the pets’ owners had had COVID-19 within three to six weeks of their pets becoming ill. Testing of 11 pets found that two cats and one dog were positive for the alpha variant of the coronavirus, and another two cats and a dog had coronavirus antibodies. The five other pets tested negative for both.
Every pet, with the exception of one cat, was treated with oxygen and diuretics and recovered. The one aforementioned cat continued to be plagued by an abnormal heart rhythm and its owners had it euthanized.
In a precautionary measure, Ferasin suggested owners who contract COVID-19 have little contact with their pets or enlist someone else to look after them until they are well.
“Obviously we’re focused on preventing human-to-human transmission just now, because that’s crucial,” Ferasin said. “But if we were to take our eye off other species, we could be storing up problems in the future.”
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