The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI), the statutory body responsible for the regulation and management of the practise of veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing in the state, has issued a guidance note to veterinary professionals on the subject of COVID-19 and passive transfer to animals. Included is a protocol for veterinary practitioners and veterinary nurses to assist their clients or pet owners who may be concerned for their animal’s welfare or suspect that their animal may have contracted the virus.
The Council acknowledges that recent reports of dogs, cats and even zoo tigers and lions testing positive for the virus should be taken seriously. However, the Council advises that there is currently no indication that pet animals such as cats and dogs are active transmitters of the infection to humans. This view is shared by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The Council provided the following Recommended protocol for veterinary professionals when advising their clients:
- If faced with questions from clients worried by news reports or stories found on social media, veterinary professionals should be aware that the general population understandably equates the detection of a pathogen in an animal with active and contagious infection.
- Veterinary professionals should be mindful when explaining the concept of ‘contaminated’ rather than ‘infected’ pets, there exists the possibility of the discovery of some hitherto undiscovered reservoir or intermediate animal host.
- Veterinary practices should advise their clients that while the situation may change, that at this point pets are not considered to be active transmitters of infections for humans.
- However, animals that have contact with confirmed or suspect human cases should be treated as high risk of having the virus either on their coats, or in their faeces, as well as in nasal and oral secretions. It would be advisable that such animals be quarantined and kept in isolation for 14 days as a precautionary measure.
- Where such animals have to be examined in a veterinary practice, the precautionary principle should be invoked. Barrier nursing protocols should be implemented, and a minimum of practice staff should be exposed to the risk. These processes should be explained to the client in advance in order to allay their fears and avoid unnecessary embarrassment.
- High risk COVID-19 patients should limit their contact with other animals.
- In keeping with other disease control measures, people should always wash their hands after playing with and handling their pets.
The Veterinary Council also acknowledged the veterinary professionals who are continuing to work and provide veterinary care during the current period.
Joe Moffitt, President of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, said “The Veterinary Council of Ireland would like to commend all registrants who continue to practise veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing to the highest professional standards while adhering to HSE, public health and Government guidelines and operating in a spirit of collegiality despite the obstacles posed by the current pandemic”.
The full guidance note from the Veterinary Council of Ireland can be accessed here