Monkeypox and Pets: Just the Facts
Monkeypox (caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae) cases have been on the rise in the U.S. and around the world. And as one print story said, “Now, our pets are being infected.” That is an outright overstatement – and the reason for this story.
For starters, in humans, as of August 16 there are a reported 38,019 cases of monkeypox worldwide. This data includes nations where the disease previously was never or only very rarely reported, but also includes African nations where monkeypox has been endemic and reported for many years. In the U.S. the number in 2022 of positively identified with monkeypox is 12,689. This number – at least at the moment – is growing and is definitely concerning.
As far as scientists are aware, there is one confirmed case of monkeypox in a companion animal, a dog in France, as published the The Lancet. Certainly, it’s possible other pets in the U.S. or anywhere in the world may have been infected with no signs or mild signs, which may not have been detected and therefore not reported. No one knows.
The dog in France has survived fine, but did develop pustules as humans with the disease often do. Having said that, little is known about the disease in dogs because the disease is so incredibly rare in dogs.
The CDC says it’s possible that infected people can spread monkeypox to pets through close contact like petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food. The CDC say they continue to learn which mammals are most vulnerable and which species can transmit the disease directly back to humans.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and CDC offer this advice regarding what pet owners need to know?
- People can catch monkeypox from animals, which is originally what occurred years ago in Africa when people began to get this illness. However, in the U.S. transmission thus far – as far as scientists are aware – is 100 percent human to human.
- Dogs are potentially susceptible to monkeypox, and other pets may be as well. Virus transmission from infected people to pets may occur through close contact. To keep pets safe, people with symptoms of monkeypox—particularly pox-like skin sores—would do best to avoid all contact with animals.
- There is no need to even think about surrendering, euthanizing, or abandoning a pet because of potential exposure to an infected person. If a family member is infected, find a friend or relative who may temporarily take over care for the pet(s), or isolate the infected person from the pet(s).
- Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other products, such as hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners (as suggested by some sites online). These products will not likely deter transmission but may likely harm the pet.
- The initial signs of monkeypox in animals are similar to signs of other, much more common infectious diseases. These include fever, cough, reddened eyes, runny nose, lethargy, and low appetite. If you notice these signs in your pet, and the pet has had no known exposure to someone with monkeypox, the cause is far more likely to be something else. Of course, any sick pet or a pet who you believe may be ill should be seen by a veterinarian.
- If your pet develops at least two of these signs or a pimple- or blister-like rash within 21 days after possible contact with someone with monkeypox, immediately contact your veterinarian. A veterinarian can test for monkeypox.
- Arguably more at risk than dogs or cats getting monkeypox and then transmitting it back to a human are people living with non-human primates, or prairie dogs, prairie dogs, Giant pouched rats, groundhogs or chinchillas. If you do live with any of these animals – known to carry the disease – speak with your physician about being proactive and getting a monkeypox vaccine.
As the American Veterinary Medical Association reported regarding COVID-19 and pets, as more is learned – they will continue to offer updates online.