TAMPA, Fla. — Ken Bukowski calls his boxer, Mojo, his best buddy.
“He’s my companion. We go everywhere together,” said Bukowski. “He means a lot. I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to him.”
This dog lover says he may start taking new measures to protect man’s best friend after hearing a tiger came down with COVID-19.
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Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger, tested positive at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Several other big cats at the zoo developed a dry cough, but all are expected to recover.
The USDA says this case is the first of its kind, and the case suggests a zoo employee spread the virus to the tiger. While other animals may have been showing symptoms, the USDA says only one tiger was tested for samples to limit the potential risks of general anesthesia. Still, the USDA explained there’s no evidence animals can spread COVID-19 to people.
"I wasn’t completely surprised,” said Dr. Tony Mutchler of MVS Pet Care Florida. “Cats, whether it’s domesticated cats, bobcats, or big cats like tigers, have similar viral receptors as humans and are known to be impacted by a number of different coronaviruses.”
Mutchler explained there are a few reports of cases where cats and dogs in other countries are suspected of getting COVID-19, but not in this country.
Dr. Mutchler says while cases are limited, you can still take extra precautions to protect yourself and your pets. If you have coronavirus, he says limit bonding time.
“Wear a mask when interacting with an animal, if necessary. That would be number one,” said Mutchler. "Try to have someone else feed, water, hug, kiss what have you, change the litter, pick up waste, have someone who’s not impacted interact with the pet.”
Mutchler says wash your hands, clean your pet’s dishes, and even wash toys. The vet does not want people to panic. As he explains, it’s unlikely your pet will fall ill.
“It just tells you in the hundreds of thousands of cases in humans, there are three in pets [in other countries]," said Mutchler. "So I think it's a good idea to take standard protective measures, but you definitely don’t need to be too concerned about pets getting novel coronavirus from you.”
Pet owner Bukowski says protective steps may become routine for him now as well.
"He goes up to people that he knows, and I should probably start distancing him from those too,” said Bukowski.
The USDA does not recommend routine coronavirus testing for animals. The agency says local, state, and federal public and animal health officials will decide if an animal should be tested.
If your pet is sick, call your vet.