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Ebola and dogs

Excalibur at rest. (Photo: Via Facebook)Excalibur at rest. (Photo: Via Facebook)

In the wake of potential Ebola pandemic, the case of infected nurse from  Spain whose dog was hastily euthanised amidst fears it may serve as  a carrier of Ebola virus,  has caused significant concern amongst many dogs owners. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has published the following statement:

Zoonotic diseases, particularly those transmitted through pets, are concerning to the pet-owning public and the pet care industry as a whole. While media reports may be inflammatory and challenge pet ownership, there have been no scientific reports indicating that Ebola virus has been isolated from, or directly transmitted by dogs. As the virus inevitably spreads into more developed regions, we are likely to see increasing concern and media interest on the role of dogs in the transmission of disease and we should be prepared to respond.

This week (Oct 7th, 2014) a nurse in Spain has tested positive for Ebola virus after caring for an infected priest who was flown from the West African region for treatment in a Madrid hospital.  People who were in-contact with this nurse have now been quarantined.   Subsequently, the Madrid regional government obtained a court order to euthanize their pet dog, saying "available scientific information" can't rule out "a risk of contagion." The dog has now been euthanized and the alternative of quarantine was not considered. The conflict is that infected dogs are asymptomatic, and it is not known whether or for how long the virus can remain viable in the dog and whether it can be shed into the environment from an infected dog.    

Sadly, the dog in question was not tested for the virus and it is our view that available technology should allow for testing and quarantine, rather than automatic euthanasia of exposed animals.  It is possible that dogs may harbor the virus, particularly in endemic areas where they may roam and have access to infected animal carcasses; however, house pets that may potentially be exposed in developed countries represent a very different scenario. Precedence should not be set for euthanizing pets as the exposure levels increase and fear escalates.  

The virus that causes Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is showing symptoms or who has died.  To date, the Ebola virus has never been isolated from a dog although seropositivity is consistent with exposure. 

For the full text  visit WSAVA page.

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