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COVID-19 test for pets now available to veterinarians

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That tiger in the Bronx Zoo has a lot of pet owners worried that maybe their pets can catch COVID-19 after all. Now IDEXX Laboratories is rolling out a new COVID-19 test for pets that could help veterinarians soothe those client worries.

The company is making their Sars-CoV-2 Real PCR Test available to veterinarians in North America this week and will continue rolling it out across most of the world in the weeks to come.

“We have continued to monitor the rapidly evolving public health crisis worldwide, paying special attention to the effects on pets," said Jay Mazelsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of IDEXX Laboratories. "While there is currently no evidence that dogs or cats play a role in transmitting the disease to humans, it became clear offering the test was the right thing to do when we saw clinical evidence that pets—especially cats and ferrets—can in rare cases be at risk for infection.”

IDEXX says their guidance, aligned with that of medical experts, is that veterinarians order a test after consultation with a public health authority (for example, a state public health veterinarian in the United States) and three specific criteria are met:

  • The pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19 or has tested positive for the virus
  • The pet has already been tested for more common infections that a veterinarian has ruled out
  • The pet (particularly cats and ferrets) is showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19

Since mid-February, IDEXX has been conducting validation trials by testing over 5,000 specimens for the COVID-19 virus from cats, dogs, and horses with respiratory symptoms in 17 countries. To date, the company has found no positive results.

The IDEXX guidance is an accordance with the latest recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which states: “Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the AVMA, CDC, USDA, American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), or National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.”

The AAVLD is even more explicit: “Involvement of the State Animal and Public Health Officials is critical for authorization of testing of an animal of any species.” They also caution: “Routine testing without a defined purpose can hamper the national and international response and may cause harm (such as abandonment) to the welfare of pets.”

While there continues to be widespread concern about a shortage of COVID-19 testing for humans, IDEXX stresses that their Real PCR Test is a veterinary test designed for animals and the company doesn’t expect the rollout to have an impact on human COVID-19 testing or test availability.

The AVMA and IDEXX agree that transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is primarily person to person and advise against testing asymptomatic pets.

Photo credit: © iStock/Sinhyu