The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting nearly 21,000 confirmed cases of the UK variant in humans across the country, with Texas reporting cases into the hundreds.
"The recent finding is that we have had both a dog and cat in Brazos County test positive, and when we sequenced the genome of the variant, it was the B.1.1.7 UK variant," said TAMU Associate professor Sarah Hamer.
TAMU researchers, like Hamer, have been working since last summer to identify how the COVID-19 virus is affecting our pets, identifying the first cat in Texas to test positive for the virus.
All of the animals enrolled in their program, about 450 so far, live in Brazos County and live inside homes where a human tested positive for COVID-19.
How can the UK variant of COVID-19 affect our pets? @TAMU has confirmed a cat & dog in #Texas contracted the variant. More details at 6:30 a.m. on @abc13houston— Charly Edsitty (@CharlyABC13) April 14, 2021
Also, Lulu is with me for my live shot & says this is a *very* important story got pet owners! 🐶 🙂 pic.twitter.com/ZOP16QJ1sh
About 60 animals have been confirmed with COVID-19, and a quarter of those animals showed mild symptoms like lack of energy, sneezing and diarrhea. All of the pets infected have recovered.
Swabs of the pet's saliva and fur, along with blood samples, are taken and analyzed inside of a lab, and if the virus is detected, the researchers will conduct close observation of how the pet reacts.
"It's certainly noteworthy because it's the first time the B.1.1.7 variant has been found in the United States," Hamer said.
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The cat and dog with the variant didn't have symptoms initially, but later started sneezing, according to Hamer. The sneezing has since stopped and their symptoms were described as mild.
Because research suggests pets can contract COVID-19, the advice to pet owners is to protect their animals as they would their human loved ones.
"It makes a lot of sense to isolate away from other people, but also other animals as well," Hamer said. "Or wear a mask around them to reduce that risk of transmission back to the animal."
Consult your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your pet's health.
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SEE ALSO: Social distancing applies to pets too, CDC says