If you’ve been following the media coverage about the ongoing Ebola crisis, you have probably read about the dogs––one in Spain and one in Texas––who have been affected by the disease. Spanish officials were forced to euthanize Excalibur after his owner was exposed to Ebola, and Bentley, the dog of Dallas nurse Nina Pham remains in quarantine.
Not a lot of information exists on how Ebola interacts with our pets, but the doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners shared with us what experts do know:
1. Ebola is zoonotic, which means it is a disease that can pass between humans and animals. However, the extent to which it actually affects animals is not well known.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists believe that the first human patient became infected through contact with an infected animal, perhaps a fruit bat or monkey, which is called a spillover event. Person-to-person transmission follows and can lead to large numbers of affected persons. In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.
2. The CDC reports that the risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with the disease.
The CDC also reported that there are some studies where dogs have been show to experience asymptomatic Ebola infections (meaning they have the virus but don’t actually get sick).
While it may seem that the doctors don’t know too much, what they do know suggests that there is not much to be worried about. The bigger story seems to be about proper protocol for treating the pets of Ebola patients. There has been significant outrage from animal advocates across the globe since Excalibur was euthanized, and most experts agree that quarantine, not euthanization, is the proper choice.
The CDC continues to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and other partners to develop additional information for pet parents.