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Can My Pet Catch Ebola?
By: Melissa Magnuson, DVM
The quick answer is no, you should not worry, however, very few studies have been done on Ebola infections in domestic pets like cats and dogs.
Ebola virus is a contagious disease that affects humans, non-human primates (monkeys and apes) and some domestic species (pigs.) It is spread by direct contact of infected bodily fluids like blood, tissues and secretions. Fruit bats in Africa are the natural host for Ebola virus and they shed the virus in their feces. To date, the only known transmission of the disease is to humans, apes, monkeys, bats and a pig (experimentally.) There are no known transmission of Ebola to domestic pets like cats and dogs.
Dogs in Africa that are close to Ebola outbreaks have been tested and have been known to carry antibodies for Ebola in their blood but researchers have yet to find the actual virus in a dogs body. No in-depth studies have been done on these dogs to study the disease. Researchers do know that the dogs can spread the disease by carrying the virus (in the form of secretions of bodily fluids like saliva from an infected human) on their fur to other humans. They can spread the disease this way as a “fomite” or carry it on their fur from being touched by a sick human.
Given the limited studies on Ebola virus in domestic pets it is recommended that if your pet has come in contact with a known positive Ebola patient (human) that the animal be quarantined and state and local officials be contacted. The CDC and your veterinarian will determine if the pet needs to be quarantined and if it is causing a public health concern and make appropriate recommendations.
Given the amount of people who can travel to and from countries that have Ebola outbreaks, it is important to know who these individuals are and if they have been exposed to Ebola patients in Africa. If you do know someone who has travelled to and from these countries I would not recommend contact with you or your pet until you are certain they are free of disease.
The good news is that Ebola is not stable in the environment and can only last for a few hours instead of days. It can be killed by disinfectants and chemicals which makes it easier to decontaminate the environment.
For more information on Ebola virus please contact the CDC for the Ebola FAQ page on their website.
Dr. Melissa Magnuson is a native of southern Minnesota where she grew up on a small pig and cattle farm. Ever since she can remember, she wanted to be a veterinarian and fulfill her life-long passion of helping animals.
With a degree in Biology and Philosophy from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, she went on to work on a Masters Degree at Southern Mississippi University. From there, she completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1998. Her internship in small ani
mal medicine, surgery and emergency medicine at Bulger Animal Hospital in North Andover brought her to the East coast. Melissa has a special interest in surgery, emergency medicine and avian and exotic animal care.
Melissa is married to her best friend Andy, and they have 3 beautiful daughters, Emma, Elise and Eva. Her pets include 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 birds, and most recently, a hamster named Olive. In her spare time she enjoys playing with her children outdoors, biking, hiking, swimming, and reading. Dr. Magnuson never feels like she is at work because she absolutely LOVES veterinary medicine. She feels very lucky to have found her passion.