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CORONAVIRUS IN DOGS AND CATS

by Delilah Penn, Staff Reporter

 

Coronavirus is not new! We are told the virus is different in humans and between animal species. So what are the side-effects and treatments for dogs and for cats?

 

Is canine and feline corona virus as deadly to our pets as COVID-19 has been to the 2.8+ million people that have died world-wide from the human version of coronavirus? (As of April 2021)

 

 

There are two forms of Canine Coronavirus: Enteric Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) and Respiratory Canine Coronavirus (CRCoV). Neither of these forms of the canine virus is the same as SARS-CoV-2 that’s responsible for COVID-19 infections in humans.

 

CCoV is transmitted by oral secretions or contact with infected feces from one dog to another.  The symptoms your dog might display are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, acute diarrhea (yellow to orange diarrhea varying from soft to watery, may also contain blood) and occasionally a fever. It’s highly infectious and may cause considerable abdominal discomfort for a few days but is generally not life-threatening.  The vaccine against CCoV will not fight against the respiratory form of the virus (CRCoV) which has no vaccine available as of this writing.

 

CRCoV is similar to the common cold virus in humans and sometimes referred to as kennel cough or CIRDC (canine infectious respiratory disease complex) and is transmitted by direct dog to dog contact.

 

Dogs that are most susceptible are puppies and young dogs, dogs from shelters, rescues, pet stores, and incorrectly maintained breeding kennels (like puppy-mills etc.). If not vaccinated for corona virus, they are at risk at boarding, grooming or doggie daycares, dog parks or places where lots of dogs gather and someone’s pet is sick, or an infected dog living in a multi-dog home sharing more than a bone!

 

Feline coronavirus is most common in cats under two years of age. It typically causes mild diarrhea but the diarrhea can be deadly to kittens because of their under-developed immune systems.  It usually goes away as young cats mature and develop immunity to the virus.

 

I’m quoting my vet when I asked him, “Should I be concerned?” he said "I don't think coronavirus is a real issue in cats, I think cats have always had coronavirus but the veterinary industry comes up with their ever-expanding, ever-more-expensive blood test to tell you that your cat has it. You will worry but you don’t do anything about it because there’s nothing that can be done about it." WOW!

 

But like anything, there are exceptions to the rule. 5%-10% of cats with the virus can have a mutation of the otherwise non-fatal feline enteric coronavirus turning into Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). The mutation causes the cat’s immune system to change. The white blood cells become infected with the virus and create an intense inflammatory reaction throughout the cat’s body. Basically, the cat’s immune system fights/destroys itself from within.

 

It can occur naturally without cat-to-cat contact and is NOT easily transmitted. BUT, the coronavirus is shed in an infected cat’s feces so keep litter boxes clean and keep away from food and water bowls in a multi-cat home! It is best to quarantine you sick cat. Feral cats that carry FIP spread it by fighting (biting and scratching).

 

 

There are two forms of FIP, “dry” (noneffusive) and “wet” (effusive). The dry form may cause loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and fever. The wet form causes fluid accumulation in the abdomen or chest cavity, leading to a pot-bellied appearance and sometimes interfering with the cat’s breathing. Either form can also lead to neurologic symptoms, such as seizures or loss of coordination.

 

There is apparently a minimally effective vaccine available from your veterinarian but most vets just give drugs to make your pet more comfortable and an “I’m sorry, there’s nothing that can be done”. Both forms are painful and fatal with euthanasia being your only option.

 

BUT I found alternate information/possible cure with a drug similar to remdesivir (Ebola treatment for humans)! Remember the antiviral drug that was being studied to fight against COVID-19 in humans in 2020? The drug, in general, was poo-pooed by the news and doctors and only authorized by the FDA in emergency cases. It isn’t even mentioned in 2021 and that’s why pet owners don’t know ANYTHING about a cure for FIP! Ref. animalbiome.com - Ellen Barber

 

Niels C. Pedersen (Professor Emeritus) at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, tested the antiviral drug GS-441524 and cured naturally occurring FIP in 25 out of 31 cats safely and effectively.

 

The pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, that invented and patented GS-441524 refused to license it for animals so they could concentrate on FDA approval of remedesivir (the two drugs are almost identical). They feared working on both drugs might interfere with approval of remedesivir for human use. Turns out it is ineffective against Ebola but still promising against COVID-19 (you still don’t hear anything about this antiviral that inhibits viruses from entering cells).

 

In the meantime, there’s a cure out there but pet parents and veterinarians don’t have access to it legally and apparently China has a significant FIP problem and have created a black-market version.

 

Pedersen understands, since he first published his results in 2019, desperate pet owners will opt for the black-market GS-441524 because thousands of cats have been cured, but he warns that the drug “is expensive, stressful for owners and cats, requires proper monitoring, and is not always successful.” He further states the standard treatment involves daily subcutaneous injections for 12 weeks. And cats with neurological FIP “often require an even higher dosage.

 

Perhaps Gilead will pick up where they left off, license their product for use in cats and get it in the hands of veterinarians everywhere! This is the one vaccine the company made that actually works and I would use it if the occasion arose, versus watching an animal suffer and wither away.

 

I have a couple quick questions about the human version. First, how can there be so many continent related variants of COVID-19 i.e. America, the U.K., South Africa and Brazil - all from a bat population in Wuhan China (origins of COVID-19)? These three variants have undergone changes to their spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to our cells, resulting in a more effective/aggressive spread of the infection.

 

So, is it mother nature or human nurture releasing specific mutations to different parts of the world to make it more deadly? And, did you know there are actually more than 4,000 variants of COVID-19 as of March 2022?

 

Something to think about.. There have been people who have died because their own immune system killed them while fighting off COVID. Sound familiar? Is it a human version of FIP? Is a little cat virus added to the human virus and that is what is making it so hard to defend against? We will probably never be told!

 

NOTE: Feline coronavirus is not the same as Canine coronavirus and none of the dog/cat coronaviruses are contagious to other species.

 

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