Probably the last thing you want to hear is that the World Health Organization has declared another disease – this time monkeypox – to be a public health emergency of international concern. Monkeypox has spread to nearly 70 countries including India where four cases have been reported so far.
Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox that causes fever, swollen lymph nodes and distinctive rashes on the face, palms, the soles of the feet and genitalia.
Given how many disease outbreaks occur, often hundreds a month, this alarm bell has been rung sparingly for diseases such as polio, Covid-19, Ebola, Zika virus and H1N1 swine flu. Since the first human case was discovered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, monkeypox outbreaks have largely been contained and limited to roughly a dozen African countries. In recent weeks, the number of cases has risen to more than 15,000 across the world.
Dog parents should stay on alert. 👀
The virus can also infect animals and, experts say, there's good reason to keep our pets in mind as the outbreak continues.
Can dogs and cats get monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a virus in the Poxiviridae family, which also contains smallpox, cowpox, rabbitpox and other viruses. In general, most mammals (including dogs, cats and humans) are susceptible to poxviruses, meaning that, yes, your dog or cat could get monkeypox.
Although there are currently no confirmed cases in dogs or cats, according to Dr. MacPete, it’s definitely possible that this might change.
At this time, we don’t know exactly what the reservoir host is for monkeypox, though we know that small mammals, like rats, squirrels and prairie dogs, as well as non-human primates play a role. We do know the most common form of transmission is from animals to people through direct contact or a bite.
And unfortunately, similar to COVID-19, animals with monkeypox won’t always show signs that they’re sick.
Some animals can be carriers of viruses and not get sick, or some can be carriers and get sick (hosts), and lastly, others can get the virus but can’t pass it on to others (dead end hosts). We don’t have the research at this time to know where dogs and cats fall on this list.
We continue to learn more every day about pets and monkeypox. If cases continue to grow, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dog or cat and your own health.
Symptoms of monkeypox to look for in your dog:
- Cough and other respiratory signs
- Conjunctivitis (aka pink eye)
- Decreased appetite
Reach out to your veterinarian with your concerns if any of these signs appear in your pet.
Signs of monkeypox in humans:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Patients usually experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. But people with a more serious case may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body. The incubation period is from about five days to three weeks. Most people recover within about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalised.
Monkeypox patients advised to avoid contact with pets for three weeks:
UK experts and vets urge confirmed cases to avoid handling household pets as precautionary measure. People with monkeypox have been told to avoid contact with their pets for three weeks amid concerns the animals could become infected and pass the virus on to other people.
If you experience any of the above signs, please call your physician and let them know you have a pet in the home. As noted above, although the risk of monkeypox transmission from humans to their pets is low, the UK Health Security Agency advises confirmed cases to avoid contact with any household pets for 21 days just to be safe.
Should I be worried about my dog getting monkeypox?
In short, pet owners have little to worry about as it's unlikely you could pass on the monkeypox infection to your cats and dogs. In the case of the American outbreak, infected prairie dogs and squirrels were the cause with experts still unsure as to how the squirrels were originally infected.
But infection among pet dogs and cats is unlikely.
There have been no reported cases of dogs or cats being infected.
While no one wants to unnecessarily panic over every new virus that comes along, it’s a good idea to stay informed, especially as we learn more about pets and monkeypox. Here’s to being the best dog parent you can be, and keeping both of you healthy!
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