Researchers said that a dog with a confirmed case of monkeypox might have gotten the virus from a person. This means that pet owners can get advice about how to protect their animals.
In a study that was published in the medical journal The Lancet, French researchers wrote about how two men who live together and have sex with other men went to a health care center complaining of sores on their anuses about six days after having sex with other men. Both men were also tired, had headaches, and had a fever.
They were told they had monkeypox. Around 12 days after they got sick, their 4-year-old male Italian greyhound also got sores on his skin, and a test showed that he had monkeypox.
The men said that they sometimes slept with their dog, which led the researchers to think that the dog may have caught the virus from the men.
Animals have been known to get monkeypox. On the contrary, it is thought that the virus came from animals, making it a zoonotic infection. But no one knows who the first host was yet.
“Monkeypox is a zoonotic infection for which the animal reservoir has not been found,” Chloe Orkin, a professor of HIV medicine at Queen Mary University of London, told Newsweek. “It was first found in monkeys in 1958 and in people in 1970.” “This shows how scientists don’t care about diseases that affect people in the Global South and don’t study them enough.” It is known to infect small rodents, especially in places with a lot of trees, and this reservoir seems to be an easy target. Prairie dogs, a type of rodent that people keep as pets, got sick after coming into contact with animals from Ghana.”
During the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, however, it was not known whether or not cats and dogs could catch the virus and spread it. The French researchers said that their findings “should start a debate about the need to keep pets away from people with the monkeypox virus,” and they called for more research into how pets can spread the disease to other people.
The CDC changed its “Monkeypox in Animals” page on August 12. It now says that monkeypox can spread to dogs. On the same page, it says “it is unknown” if cats can catch it too.
Even so, the CDC says, “We should assume that Monkeypox virus can spread to any mammal.”
The news might make pet owners wonder what they can do to keep their pets from getting monkeypox.
Dr. Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Newsweek that it is “certainly plausible” that people with monkeypox could infect their pets through close contact. This could, in theory, cause the disease to spread further in animal populations.
Whitworth added: “We haven’t heard of many cases of people infecting their pets, so the risk seems low. However, it would be smart to take precautions, and if you think you might be infected, you should avoid touching, cuddling, or kissing your pet. If possible, get somebody else to feed it.”
Orkin pointed to the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, which put out guidelines for pet owners in June about how to deal with monkeypox.
In one part, it says that pets should stay as far away from infected people as possible until the person’s isolation period is over. If the pet is a rodent, rabbit, or other small exotic animal, it should be kept in its cage.
The CDC has also put information on its website for people who own pets. This information says that people with monkeypox should stay away from animals, including pets.
“If the person with monkeypox didn’t spend much time with pets after their symptoms started, ask friends or family who live in a different home to take care of the animal until the person with monkeypox is fully better. Petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and eating together are all forms of close contact ” If you have monkeypox and need to care for your healthy pets while you are quarantined at home, wash your hands or use a hand rub with alcohol before and after caring for them. When caring for your animals, it’s also important to cover any rashes as much as possible (with long sleeves and pants, for example) and to wear gloves and a mask or respirator that fits well.”
It also says that people who are immune-compromised, pregnant, have children under 8 years old, or have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema shouldn’t care for animals who were close to a person with monkeypox because they may be more likely to get a serious illness.