The spread of the monkeypox virus has been surprising to experts ever its unprecedented explosion across Europe and the US back in May. Now, a case report in The Lancet has changed the picture once again. For the first time, a case has been confirmed in a pet dog – and it was most likely caught from the owners.
Previously, it wasn’t known whether pets like cats and dogs are at risk of contracting the monkeypox virus. As the name suggests, it’s a zoonotic virus, so it’s known to spread from animals to people – but there were no known cases of it going in the other direction.
It was always a possibility, however. The working assumption is that any mammal can potentially contract and spread the virus – which is why the CDC issued recommendations back in June that people with monkeypox should avoid contact with pets until fully recovered.
The Lancet reports that the two human patients had indeed been careful to isolate their dog from other pets and humans as soon as their own symptoms came on – but they continued letting the pet sleep in their bed. Two weeks later, the four-year-old greyhound developed the tell-tale lesions of the virus across its belly and anus, and a PCR test confirmed the presence of monkeypox.
DNA analysis of the monkeypox virus strains found in the dog and one of its humans showed 100 percent sequence homology – meaning they were almost certainly related to each other – and both were examples of the hMPXV-1 clade, lineage B.1. That’s the subtype which has been spreading across Europe and the US since April, and in Paris, where the dog and owners live, has infected close to 2,000 people.
“To the best of our knowledge, the kinetics of symptom onset in both patients and, subsequently, in their dog suggest human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox virus,” notes the case report.
“Given the dog's skin and mucosal lesions as well as the positive monkeypox virus PCR results from anal and oral swabs, we hypothesize a real canine disease, not a simple carriage of the virus by close contact with humans or airborne transmission.”
In other words, the possibility of monkeypox in pets needs to be treated as a potentially serious disease, and the authors reiterate the importance of isolating animals from monkeypox-infected people.
“Infected people should not take care of exposed pets,” advises the CDC. “The person with monkeypox should avoid close contact with the exposed animal, and when possible, ask another household member to care for the animal until the person with monkeypox is fully recovered.”
“If you have monkeypox and must care for your healthy pets during home isolation, wash your hands, or use an alcohol-based hand rub, before and after caring for them,” they add. “It is also important to cover any skin rash to the best extent possible (i.e. long sleeves, long pants), and wear gloves and a well-fitting mask or respirator while providing care for your animals.”