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URGENT: Can Dogs and Cats Get Ebola?

Sb10069719Ab-001It seems that every day we’re hearing another news story about the spread of Ebola, either in West Africa or now here in the United States. Ebola, for anyone who may not know, is short for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. It’s a deadly viral infection that has killed over 3,300 people and infected over 7,000.

Symptoms of Ebola, according to the CDC, include fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. These symptoms appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

It’s not yet known how how Ebola originally started, but researchers believe humans first became infected through contact with an infected animal, possibly a fruit bat, and that the disease spread through West Africa through the bush meat trade. When a human is infected with the virus, though, it can be spread to other humans in several ways:

  • through blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen)
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that are contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • according to the CDC, it is NOT spread through the air or by water. However, in Africa, it may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats…

As Ebola becomes a larger concern around the world, those of us who share our hearts and homes with cats and dogs may wonder if our beloved pets are at risk of contracting the virus. And furthermore, are we at risk of infection from our pets?

If your concern involves your feline friends, rest assured that we found no evidence of any cats ever being infected with Ebola. (On the contrary, we never found any evidence that they can’t be infected, either.)

However, if you’re wondering if your dogs can be infected with Ebola, the short answer is yes. But – there is a much longer explanation needed:

During the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak in Gabon, the CDC conducted a study and published an article entitled,“Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk”.  They observed that several dogs were highly exposed to Ebola virus by eating infected dead animals. To examine whether the dogs became infected with Ebola virus, they samples 439 dogs from epidemic areas in Africa and a control area in France and screened them for the virus. Not surprisingly, many of the dogs from the virus-epidemic area screened positive for Ebola.

What’s surprising about dogs, though, is that they do not appear to be affected by the Ebola virus. Dogs do not get sick or die from Ebola infections.

We also wondered, can humans contract Ebola from dogs? From the CDC study, it appears that they can:

Although dogs can be asymptomatically infected, they may excrete infectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for a short period before virus clearance, as observed experimentally in other animals. Given the frequency of contact between humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infection must be considered as a potential risk factor for human infection and virus spread. Human infection could occur through licking, biting, or grooming. Asymptomatically infected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks, which could explain some epidemiologically unrelated human cases. Dogs might also be a source of human Ebola outbreaks.

The good news is that once the virus is cleared from the dog it is no longer contagious to humans.

So, to answer the question, “Can my dog get Ebola?” Yes, the possibility exists. But, outside of virus-epidemic, underdeveloped areas, with much lower standards for food production and sanitation, the chances are extremely low.

As the Ebola virus continues to spread close to home, all pet parents should be aware of this potentially dangerous threat. Please share on Facebook and Twitter.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar Of Victoria

    Victoria

    says:

    That`s all we need, people getting crazy about Ebola spreading dogs…we should just relax about it and clam down. If people start this up there are sure to be others that will panic and we know how panic spreads and none of our beloved pets will be safe. The last thing we need is a world without dogs. I rarely trust humans to do the right thing and I can see how easily it would be for senseless people to turn and lay all the blame on dogs instead of taking responsibility for inadequate screening or incompetant misdiagnosis or fearful denial and conspiracy theories… I can see it so easily happening. Calm down and love your dog don`t get caught up in a fear cycle.

  2. Avatar Of Gale

    Gale

    says:

    Can you tell me why, with the latest Ebola case in Spain, authorities euthanized and incinerated the patient’s pet dog? If the virus would eventually leave the animal’s system, why kill it?

  3. Avatar Of Frances

    Frances

    says:

    In 1989 in a lab setting, 2 different rooms that shared a ventilation system, the animals in the second room were infected from the animals in the first room, through the ventilation system.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/046962_Ebola_airborne_transmission_virus_mutation.html
    Believe what you will about Ebola being airborne.

  4. Avatar Of Jrd

    jrd

    says:

    From these studies, did they ever determine how long it takes the virus to leave the canine body and they no longer be able to transmit the disease?

    • We’ve contacted the CDC for an answer to this question because that information is not in the original study. So far we’ve only gotten a form letter in response…but we’ll keep trying to get the answer!

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