Dutch find coronavirus antibodies in first dog, 3 cats; No risk at mink farms

For the first time in the Netherlands, a dog was found to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. Three cats which lived on one of two mink farms where a coronavirus infection spread to animals last month also tested positive for the virus.

"The owner of the dog is a COVID-19 patient. The dog had breathing problems and was euthanized on April 30 because of worsening of the complaints," wrote Carola Schouten, the Minister of Agriculture, in a letter to Parliament on Friday. The American bulldog's blood tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, but the dog had tested negative for an active case of Covid-19. It was thus unclear if the dog's worsening condition was as a result of the infection, or due to other health issues.

While it was the first time a dog was found to have been infected with the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands, it was not the first case globally. There were earlier reports of infected dogs in Hong Kong, Schouten said.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, which sought to gain insights into the how the coronavirus affects animals, while the risk of catching Covid-19 from a pet remains very low, it is nonetheless advised that people do not kiss or cuddle their pets if they know that they, or the pet, is infected.

"Human-to-animal transmission is possible, but the impact of animal transmission on human health is negligible," the ministry stated, pointing out that it is human-to-human transmission that is responsible for spreading the Covid-19 disease. Nevertheless, the ministry affirmed the current advise from the RIVM: "avoid intensive contact with pets with Covid-19".

The RIVM maintains that the general advice in such a case would be to contact the veterinarian by telephone, especially if the animal has severe shortness of breath or diarrhea. Animals suspected of being infected with coronavirus should be reported to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

Cats with antibodies found on infected mink farms

Three of eleven cats also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, but gave a negative test for Covid-19, the minister said. They were "farm cats" that roamed around the first mink farm where a coronavirus infection was found in the mammals. 

A study carried out on the ministry's behalf found that the risk of Covid-19 transmission at two mink farms in Noord-Brabant, where the virus had previously been spotted, is effectively zero. The government has therefore opted to lift the 400-meter no-entry zone around the two infected farms, located in the towns of Gemert-Bakel and Laarbeek respectively.

Research at and around the two infected mink farms will continue in the coming weeks, the RIVM said. In total, five mink farms have recorded positive tests for a coronavirus infection. Three businesses operate the five farms, the Schouten said.