Worms & Germs Blog

Promoting Safe Pet Ownership

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I’ve spent a lot more talking about mink in the past few months than I ever thought I would. In regard to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in people), mink and ferrets (their close relatives) are a fascinating story, but I’ll try to be brief about it. Mink have become important because of the widespread outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms in some countries, and ferrets are important because they’re household pets and appear…
Moving on from cats and dogs, let’s talk about one of our major livestock species, pigs. Are pigs susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Kind of, but not really. There are conflicting experimental data that show no or very little susceptibility to the virus. Why did we talk a lot about pigs and SARS-CoV-2 initially? At the start of the pandemic, we were worried about the potential for this virus to infect pigs because of…
In our ongoing seroprevalence (antibody) testing, we’ve seen that human-to-pet transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is probably not uncommon. However, we hadn’t yet found a pet that was positive for the virus on swabs in Canada . (Antibody testing tells us if the subject was previously infected, whereas testing swabs by PCR tells us if the virus is there at the time.) The reason for that is likely the short period of time that most infected…
It was surprising to see what things sold out early in the pandemic: toilet paper, yeast, exercise equipment…. and chicken coops. Yes, there was a run on chicken coops. It seems like a lot of people decided to get backyard chickens in response to all the COVID-19 restrictions. Any human-to-animal contact has a mixture of risks and benefits (just like any human-to-human contact). Mental, social and emotional aspects of pet (including backyard chicken) contact are…
Round two of my COVID-19 in animals summaries: Dogs Are dogs susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus? Yes, but not very… maybe.  It depends what you mean by “susceptible.” Nice and clear, eh? There’s a difference between being infected and getting sick. Dogs can be infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which is the virus that causes COVID-19 in people), but they don’t seem to be as susceptible as cats, and it’s debatable whether dogs get…
I’ve let the blog slip over the past week so it’s catch-up time. (I’ve been busier on Twitter – @weese_scott if anyone wants to follow that). I want to get back to some COVID-19 discussion, and rather than a multi-species update, I figured I’d back up and focus on an overview of one species at a time. We’ll start with cats (so this will be longer than a typical blog post). Are cats susceptible to…
In human medicine, a needlestick is a big deal. That’s not surprising because of concerns about transmission of bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis B and HIV. In contrast, in veterinary medicine needlesticks are (unfortunately) largely considered “regular” events that aren’t really a big deal.  Most of the time perhaps they’re not. They hurt, but serious consequences are rare.  However, “rare” is not the same as “non-existent” – and if you’re the one that gets the “rare”…
Rabies is a disease that’s met with an interesting mix of inherent fear and dismissiveness in most developed countries, where canine rabies has been eradicated. It’s also a disease that’s often poorly understood in areas where it causes large numbers of deaths. As an almost completely preventable disease (with proper post-exposure treatment), and one for which we have highly effective vaccines (for people and animals), barriers to accessing these critical prevention tools need to be…
Here’s a quick update on some recent feline studies on SARS-CoV-2. Some come with the increasingly common disclaimer that they are pre-prints, meaning the studies haven’t yet undergone peer review by other scientists in the field. Cats in Hong Kong (Barrs et al. Emerg Infect Dis 2020) This study has undergone peer review, and provides a nice description of Hong Kong’s efforts early in the pandemic. They had the most comprehensive response to…