A new study published in the Veterinary Record on November 4, 2021, reveals that pets infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus variants can lead to acute onset of cardiac disease, including heart muscle inflammation (severe myocarditis).
The observational study describes the first identification of the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant in 26 domestic pets diagnosed with suspected myocarditis.
Since November 2020, natural infection of any animal by the UK B.1.1.7 variant has not been documented in England nor anywhere else.
Interestingly, two pet carers also reported having developed COVID-associated severe myocarditis a few weeks before their pets' onset of clinical signs.
"Our study reports the first cases of cats and dogs affected by the COVID-19 alpha variant and highlights, more than ever, the risk that companion animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2," commented lead author Luca Ferasin, DVM, Ph.D., of The UK-based Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre.
"We also reported the atypical clinical manifestations characterized by severe heart abnormalities, which is a well-recognized complication in people affected by COVID-19 but has never been described in pets before."
"However, COVID-19 infection in pets remains a relatively rare condition and, based on our observations, it seems that the transmission occurs from humans to pets, rather than vice versa."
And the identification of PCR-positive signals from the rectal swabs from three pets represents another novelty and suggests that a subset of animals may continue to have positive SARS-CoV-2 rectal swabs after a negative result of a nasopharyngeal test, as previously reported in human patients.
This finding highlights the potential of gastro-intestinal shedding of the coronavirus even in asymptomatic individuals.
These researchers described the limitations of this observational study. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.