Ebola & Pets

Updated information for Washington veterinarians on pets and Ebola

December 5, 2014 – Washington State Department of Health
Washington receives international travelers daily, and some arrive here from the West African countries experiencing widespread transmission of Ebola virus – Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and most recently Mali. The ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to receive media attention and rightly so. This unprecedented outbreak has raised many questions, including some about how the disease affects the animal population, particularly, the risk to household pets and their potential role in the spread of Ebola.

At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of transmitting Ebola virus to people or animals. This includes the areas in Africa where Ebola is endemic. There is no evidence of active infection in dogs, and to date, Ebola virus has not been isolated from dogs. Antibodies to the virus have been detected in dogs known to have high-risk exposure to the virus in nature. However, clinical disease has never been reported in dogs. This suggests that dogs exposed to high quantities of the virus can become infected, but that the infection is likely transient and non-productive (non-viremic). It is not known whether an animal’s body, feet, or fur can act as a carrier (fomite) to transmit Ebola to people or other animals. In the current epidemic and in previous Ebola outbreaks, exposure to dogs is not a risk factor for human infections. However, to minimize any potential risk of transmission between people and pets, it is recommended to keep all animals away from blood or body fluids of a person who may have Ebola.

Any person who has traveled to Washington from a West African country experiencing widespread Ebola transmission will be monitored by their local public health agency for 21 days from the last date of possible exposure. People are assessed for exposure risk and based on an assigned risk category undergo either active monitoring or direct active monitoring. The main difference being restrictions on travel on public transportation and exclusion from public places. People under active monitoring have low exposure risk, while those under direct active monitoring have higher exposure risk.

On Nov. 10, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Ebola Companion Animal Response Plan Working Group, which includes a variety of experts from multiple agencies and organizations, released interim guidance for public health officials about how to manage pets of persons under monitoring and how to manage pets of persons who become sick with Ebola. People under active monitoring (low exposure risk) may keep their pets in their home and continue normal interaction with animals. Persons under direct active monitoring (higher exposure risk) should avoid contact with animals, including their own pets, to prevent the need for quarantine of a pet in case the person gets sick. If a person gets sick with Ebola and has had contact with a dog or cat, the pet must be assessed for exposure and may be placed in mandatory quarantine for at least 21 days following their last known exposure to the person with Ebola. Quarantine would require a large amount of resources and would likely be stressful on the pet and owner. Public health officials are making an effort to ask all persons being monitored about the type and number of pets in their home, and about other activities that involve contact with animals, including pets and livestock (e.g. occupations, hobbies, farm or zoo visits, or work with service animals). Animals other than dogs and cats are not covered by the AVMA guidance and will be handled on a case-by-case basis. There is currently no evidence that Ebola virus can infect non-mammals kept as pets, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish.

If an asymptomatic person under monitoring by a public health agency chooses or is asked to have their pet relocated during their 21 day monitoring period, veterinarians could potentially be asked to board a pet at their facility. This is a safe and viable option for the pet and poses no risk for contamination or exposure to Ebola virus for the facility, personnel, or other pets being treated or boarded. This is because pets in homes of asymptomatic persons have not been exposed to Ebola. An infected person can only spread the virus once he or she becomes symptomatic. Additionally, a person under active monitoring (low exposure risk) has no restrictions on travel or being in public places. So if the person needs to seek veterinary services for their pet during the 21 day monitoring period, this also poses no risk. A person under direct active monitoring (higher exposure risk) should not travel or be in public places during the 21 day monitoring period and should not bring a pet in for veterinary services (hopefully the pet has been relocated out of the home).

If you have questions or concerns, call Dr. Ron Wohrle at the state Department of Health at (360) 236-3369 or call your local health department. We will share new information regarding pets and Ebola as it becomes available.

For more information:

CDC resources
AVMA resources (some are available for members only) 

Ebola and Pets

October 8, 2014 – Washington State Department of Health
The dog of a Spanish Ebola patient was ordered euthanized by the Spanish government today due to fears that the dog could be carrying the virus. The WA State Department of Health has put together talking points that address the risk of catching Ebola from a pet. The talking points were developed in close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

  • There is no evidence that pets become sick with Ebola from routine contact with people who are infected with the virus.
  • There is no evidence that pets can transmit Ebola to humans through routine contact.
  • We do suggest that, in the rare instance that a pet is determined to be potentially exposed, the pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian in consultation with the State Public Health Veterinarian and Local Public Health.
  • A potentially exposed pet should have limited contact with people for a minimum of three weeks from the time of potential exposure to the virus.
  • CDC is working with the American Veterinary Medical Association and the US Department of Agriculture to develop more specific guidance for pet owners and veterinarians.

Questions can be directed to Dr. Ron Wohrle, Public Health Veterinarian at the WA State Department of Health, at 360-236-3369.

Ebola Virus FAQ – AVMA

Ebola Virus Resources for Veterinarians – AVMA (members only)

Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

“Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk” (download) – research study from Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal

Dead or alive: animal sampling during Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in humans – Emerging Health Threats Journal

A handout for pet owners: Understanding Ebola – DVM360

Ebola: Washington State status – WA State Department of Health