PHOENIX — “When I’m having a hard time, when I’m sad, he is literally by my side, he will not leave me,” said Kyla Kraust gazing at her dog Ollie.
Emotionally, deeply connected, pets and their owners share a bond millenniums in the making.
“This is Pua,” said Kyla, holding the family's cat.
Kyla and her husband Max, like most of us, consider their dog Ollie and cat Pua their family. However, it’s Ollie and Kyla you’ll likely find attached at the hip.
“Don’t know what I’d do without him,” said Kyla.
“I’m on the road a lot with my job so he’s been really good with my wife, and she likes having him by her side,” said Max.
So, when Max got COVID-19 earlier this year, they wondered if he was at risk of passing it on to their furry companions. AZDHS sent him an email about a volunteer study by TGEN that would provide the answer.
Max, a baseball scout for the Padres who depends on data for his work, took them up on the offer.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity for us and our unique situation to provide whatever we could to help them do the research,” said Max.
“We have tested just over 80 animals in 30 different households across Arizona,” said Hayley Yaglom.
Yaglom, a genomic epidemiologist with TGEN, collects nasal and blood samples from the animals at the owner's home. What they found was owners were indeed passing on COVID-19 to their pets. Mostly likely due to the loving interactions.
“About 30% percent of those animals, again we’re talking dogs and cats, have been positive,” said Yaglom.
The team has pet owners fill out surveys to find out how they interact with their pets. Do they kiss them? Cuddle them? Do their other pets cuddle each other?
Each answer provides them more context on how the virus may have been transferred. Fortunately, most pets had little to no symptoms, however five cats did have fevers and some respiratory issues. But overall, pets quickly recover and most importantly don’t pass the virus on to humans. However as new variants pop up, that could change.
“Could the virus eventually change where pets that are exposed can infect a person, we don’t know and we need to study it,” asked Yaglom.
Thanks to pets like Ollie and Pua, those answers are being discovered.
If you are interested in having your pets tested and taking part in the study, you can email TGEN researchers at email@example.com