As COVID starts to wane, we have a different challenge, monkeypox. This virus is not new, and is thankfully rarely fatal. It can cause uncomfortable and sometimes disfiguring pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth, and on other body parts, including hands, feet, genitals and anus. Similar to COVID-19, clinical signs may cause fevers, headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion. People with depressed immune systems, a history of eczema, or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding may have more serious illness than the general population.
Being that this is a veterinary column, yes, you guessed it, pets are susceptible to this virus. In a round-about way, here we go again. As of this writing, there was one confirmed case of transfer from humans to a dog, but since there are approximately 18,000 confirmed human cases in the United States, more are certain to exist, but have not been documented. The District has a higher than average case count when compared to the states in the country.
Concern for transfer from humans to pets is first, but the opposite may occur, especially with potential wildlife reservoirs. First and foremost a person with monkeypox should avoid contact with all animals. The virus may be transmitted through direct contact, including snuggling, petting, kissing, sharing of sleeping areas and sharing of food. Simply walking a dog is not considered close contact, as long as there was no significant touching involved.
If a person with monkeypox has a pet but has not had close contact, it is best for the pet to stay with a friend or family member until all family members in the household have fully recovered from the virus. After recovery, simple cleaning is advised before bringing the pet back home. Please see guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention below. Where there has been close contact, the pets should be kept at home and isolated from other people and animals for 21 days after the most recent contact. Infected people should not care for their pets and avoid close contact.
Should there be an immunocompromised member within the household, a pregnant family member, or young children under the age of eight, it may be necessary to have the family pets isolate at a different location. If in this situation, talk with your physician or the health department as soon as possible for further guidance.
If you have monkeypox and must care for your pet, utilize common precautions. Wash hands with soap and frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after interacting or feeding them. Cover any skin rashes with clothing and do not let your pets come in contact with these lesions. Wear a face mask and gloves, if possible. Avoid petting, and other close high-risk behaviors until given the clear by your physician. Pets should be kept away from your bedding and areas which may come in contact with any rashes / lesions on your body, including all sheets and towels.
Clinical signs of monkeypox in dogs and cats are similar to those in people. Should you be concerned that your pet has monkeypox, contact your local veterinarian, who will then connect with the health department and District’s public health veterinarian. Together they will guide you in appropriate testing and other measures. Do not let your pet interact with other animals and keep them isolated from other people, especially those who are immunocompromised as discussed above. Wash hands and use similar precautions as if a human had the virus. Wash all bedding, enclosures and food bowls routinely (see CDC guideline below).
So far monkeypox has not been prevalent in District pets, but precaution and sensibility is prudent to prevent disease. Please reach out to us at District Vet should you have concerns. Although we are discussing monkeypox, please not forget that COVID-19 is still circulating and may infect your pet. The same basic precautions with monkeypox should be utilized if you are COVID-19 positive.
The District Department of Heath and your physician can provide further guidance, should you have questions regarding monkeypox in people and animals.
Excerpts and all above data courtesy the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For further information regarding monkeypox, please see:
Dr. Teich is the medical director for District Veterinary Hospitals in Navy Yard, Eastern Market and Brookland. Visit www.districtvet.com for more information.