For the first time, researchers have documented a case of human-to-animal monkeypox transmission in a pet dog. And while the overall risk of monkeypox infection in pets is low, CDC has updated its guidance to help prevent spread to household animals.
Pet dog tests positive for monkeypox
Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. So far, the current monkeypox outbreak has consisted of human-to-human transmission, but a new study published in The Lancet found that human-to-animal transmission has also occurred.
In the study, researchers reported monkeypox infection in two men living together in France. The men arrived at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital on June 10 with symptoms of monkeypox, including rashes, headaches, and fevers. Then, 12 days after the onset of their symptoms, their dog, an Italian greyhound, appeared to have scabs and lesions like those seen in monkeypox.
Using DNA analysis, medical workers found that the virus infecting the dog matched the monkeypox virus found in one of its owners. Although the men reported keeping their dog away from other people and animals since they became symptomatic, they allowed the dog to sleep in their bed, which is where the researchers believe it contracted the virus.
Based on their findings, the researchers called for further investigation into potential secondary transmission of monkeypox via pets. "Our findings should prompt debate on the need to isolate pets from monkeypox virus-positive individuals," they wrote.
"This is the first incident that we're learning about where there is human-to-animal transmission," said Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organization's lead on monkeypox. "So, on a number of levels, this is new information. It's not surprising information, and it's something that we’ve been on the watch out for."
How to protect your pets from monkeypox
Based on the study's findings, CDC updated its guidance on monkeypox to include dogs among the animals that can be infected by the virus. The agency now lists 10 animals that can possibly contract monkeypox, including hedgehogs and domestic rabbits.
In its guidance, CDC wrote that "[i]nfected animals can spread Monkeypox virus to people, and it is possible that people who are infected can spread Monkeypox virus to animals through close contact."
So far, health experts say that the risk of transmitting monkeypox to pets is low, but they still recommend that people who are infected take precautions to prevent potential spread.
To reduce the risk of viral transmission, you should avoid close contact with your pets, including petting, cuddling, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food, if you are infected. Pets who have had close contact with an infected individual should be isolated from other people and animals for 21 days and taken care of by another member of the household if possible.
If infected individuals need to care for their pets, they should wash their hands before and after caring for them, cover any rashes with long sleeves and pants, and wear gloves and a mask during close interactions. In addition, CDC recommends infected individuals avoid directly handling a pet's food, toys, or bedding to avoid potentially contaminating the surfaces.
So far, CDC said that it does not know all symptoms that animals may have after contracting monkeypox, but some symptoms to watch for include:
- Lack of appetite
- Nasal secretions or crust
- Pimple- or blister-like skin rashes
If symptoms appear within 21 days of a pet being exposed to the virus, CDC recommends contacting a veterinarian to get the pet professionally assessed. Animals with a probable or confirmed monkeypox infection should be isolated from other animals and minimize contact with humans for at least 21 days.
When taking care of sick pets, people should wash their hands often and wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves, eyes protection, masks, and disposable gowns, to avoid contact with the virus. Any items that an infected pet comes into contact with, including bedding, enclosures, and food dishes, should be thoroughly disinfected, and any waste should be disposed in a separate, lined trash can.
Finally, CDC warns people against surrendering, euthanizing, or abandoning pets due to potential exposure to or infection with monkeypox.
"We saw people surrendering their pets during COVID even though the risk was extremely low," said Lori Teller, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "So, we don’t want to see that happen again with monkeypox." (Beachum, Washington Post, 8/15; Rodriguez, USA Today, 8/16; Polus, The Hill, 8/15; Mayer, Newsweek, 8/12; Archie, NPR, 8/16; Clarke, ClickOnDetroit, 8/10; Camero, Buzzfeed News, 8/12; Falconer, Axios, 8/15; CDC Pets & Monkeypox guidance, 6/24)