PHOENIX — PHOENIX, Ariz. (KNXV) — Kyla Kraust and her husband Max consider their dog Ollie and cat Pua their family.
When Max got COVID-19 earlier this year, they wondered if he was at risk of passing it on to their furry companions. The Arizona Department of Health sent him an email about a volunteer study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute
(TGen) that would provide the answer.
Max, a baseball scout for the Padres, took them up on the offer.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity for us and our unique situation to provide whatever we could to help them do the research,” said Max.
“We have tested just over 80 animals in 30 different households across Arizona,” said Hayley Yaglom, a genomic epidemiologist with TGen.
Yaglom collects nasal and blood samples from the animals at the owner's home. What they found was owners were indeed passing on COVID-19 to their pets.
“About 30% percent of those animals, again we’re talking dogs and cats, have been positive,” said Yaglom.
The team has pet owners fill out surveys to find out how they interact with their pets. Do they kiss them? Cuddle them? Do their other pets cuddle each other?
Each answer provides them with more context about how the virus may have been transferred.
Yaglom said most pets that have tested positive have had little to no symptoms. However, she added that five cats have fevers and some respiratory issues. But overall, pets quickly recover and don’t pass the virus on to humans.
“Could the virus eventually change where pets that are exposed can infect a person, we don’t know and we need to study it,” asked Yaglom.
Thanks to pets like Ollie and Pua, those answers are being discovered.