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CDC Releases Information about Ebola and Pets

Posted October 15, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

This story was selected for our series: “Top Stories of 2014.”

Americans love their pets. After Spanish authorities euthanized the dog of a nurse who contracted Ebola, many US pet owners became understandably concerned. When news leaked that an American nurse in Dallas with Ebola also had a dog, pet owners really got nervous. The Internet lit up with speculations, myths, and lots of wrong information regarding Ebola virus and animals. Veterinarians, including Dr. Jeff Werber's article Can Ebola Spread to Dogs? and my own Ebola In Dogs piece (among others), did their best to provide accurate and timely information, but blogs and social media can only do so much. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published “Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets” to help assuage fears and dispel rumors. I can’t stress enough that the risk of you or your pet contracting Ebola is incredibly, extremely low. Let’s review the highlights from the CDC report and what you need to know to keep your pet and family safe and worry-free.

Ebola virus and dogHow Ebola virus is spread
The CDC is clear that a human or animal must be showing signs of Ebola in order to spread the infection. Transmission requires direct contact with the virus; there is no current evidence that Ebola is airborne. In order for Ebola to infect you or your pet, the virus must enter the body from an infected person:

  • Through a cut
  • Through mucous membranes lining the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • In body fluids such as urine, saliva, vomit, feces, semen, and breast milk
  • By needles and syringes

According to the CDC, Ebola has not been found to be transmitted through the air or in water. Further, "Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus," according to the CDC Q&A.

Can Dogs Get Ebola?
This CDC's report states, “At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or other animals. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola. There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease.”

The only scientific study to date on Ebola virus in dogs was conducted by a French research team in 2005. They found that dogs near the 2001-2002 Gabon outbreak had antibodies to Ebola, indicating some form of infection and exposure. These dogs had likely been scavenging on human and animal carcasses infected with Ebola.

The truth is we know very little about Ebola in dogs. It is very important that we study any pets potentially infected with Ebola to better understand the risks and realities of this deadly disease.

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Ernie has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a well-known veterinarian, media personality and author. He is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.