DETROIT – A positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has raised new questions about the risks of pets contracting the virus.
This is an example of new information we’re constantly learning about this novel virus. Scientists originally thought dogs and cats wouldn’t be at risk. Although the risk still appears to be very low, it’s not nonexistent.
Officials at the Bronx Zoo said a 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia was exposed to the virus by an asymptomatic zoo worker. She is the first tiger to test positive for the virus.
Six other large cats, including three African lions and three tigers, have also shown symptoms, including a dry cough, officials said.
All of the cats are expected to recover.
“I think if it was a problem for animals in the world, other people would have seen it months ago before it reached us, so I think it’s pretty unusual,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo. “Certainly, all of those involved in this outbreak and diagnosis and testing will be sharing this information with their peers and we’ll be sharing it with zoos and zoo veterinarians in this country and other countries so that everyone can benefit from what we have learned, and certainly, people need to be taking more precautions around cats in the face of a COVID outbreak.”
There are two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium that have also tested positive for COVID-19. The dogs didn’t have symptoms, but the cat did. All three are thought to have been exposed through their owners.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or believe you have the illness, you should avoid contact with your pet and arrange for another family member to care for them.