With the recent news of Madrid officials euthanizing the dog of a Spanish nursing assistant that had been quarantined after testing positive for Ebola, it has left pet owners wondering: can their cat or dog get and spread Ebola?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that no cases of people contracting Ebola from dogs or cats have ever been reported, but they still want to monitor the situation. Animals like monkeys, rodents and bats have been credited for spreading the disease through saliva, other fluids and ingesting tainted meat, but is it the same for average pets?
There is good news for cat owners; there have never been any conclusive studies that found cats can contract Ebola. However, dogs are another matter. During the 2001-02 Ebola outbreak in Gabon, researchers tested 337 dogs throughout towns and villages after confirming they had eaten infected animals. They found that 25% of the dogs had antibodies to Ebola, proving they had been exposed or infected with the disease. Dogs exhibit no symptoms and are unlikely to die from Ebola, but many are concerned that they are carriers.
This does not mean that a dog infected with Ebola is a risk, but it also doesn't mean it is not. Lab experiments have proven that the saliva, urine and stool of other Ebola carriers can contain the virus, but it has never been proven, or even tested, in dogs. In theory, being licked or even playfully bitten by a dog could mean exposure, making our lack of knowledge dangerous for both people and dogs. Although after the Madrid euthanization affair that went viral this week, it is likely tests will be conducted.
As for right now, the risk of pets contracting Ebola is extremely unlikely. Even in Dallas, Texas where health officials are monitoring 48 people that may have been in contact with an Ebola patient, they are not monitoring animals at this time.