What is the risk of monkeypox spreading to pets ?
To what pets can humans transmit monkeypox virus (MPXV)? For example, can dogs, cats and rodents get monkeypox? Due to the increase in the number of people infected with this virus in multiple non-endemic countries, including France, ANSES received an urgent request to answer these questions.
The animal species at greatest risk of contamination by humans
The monkeypox virus (MPXV) is a zoonosis endemic to West and Central Africa, where the virus has been detected in various species of wild animals without any formal identification of the reservoir.
In the available scientific literature, there are few or no data on the susceptibility of pets to monkeypox. The Agency therefore underlines that the conclusions of its expert appraisal are subject to change.
In the current state of knowledge:
- lagomorphs such as rabbits (especially young rabbits) and hares are susceptible and sensitive in experimental conditions. These are the most common exotic pets;
- members of the family Sciuridae, including squirrels and prairie dogs, also appear to be susceptible and sensitive and may be at greatest risk of becoming contaminated by humans. However, these animals are not allowed to be kept or sold in France;
- pet rodents, such as brown rats, mice, guinea pigs and hamsters, do not appear to be very susceptible to the virus in adulthood, although younger animals may be susceptible;
- There are no data for ferrets and dogs. Regarding cats, only one serological study has been conducted; it showed negative results. At this point in time, no clinical cases have been reported for any of these three species.
Suspected transmission of monkeypox to a dog
Since the expert assessment published by the Agency on 16 June 2022, a suspected case of transmission of the monkeypox virus from a human to a dog has been documented. Although the dog was indeed a carrier of the virus, it did not develop the disease. The experts concluded that the dog was either unsusceptible or highly insensitive to the virus.
Recommendations to prevent the virus from spreading to pets
If you become infected with monkeypox virus, you should take the following precautionary measures:
- avoid contact with your pet as much as possible, ideally by having someone else look after it while you are isolating;
- before coming into contact with your pet, wash your hands and wear gloves and a single-use mask.
These recommendations may be refined as new data become available.
Pending additional data on the sensitivity and susceptibility of pets, veterinarians treating animals whose owners are symptomatic are advised to be highly vigilant. This will ensure the detection of any early signs of the virus spreading from humans to animals. A monitoring programme involving field veterinarians will need to be organised to that end.
A second expert opinion
A second expert opinion considered the probability of transmission of the virus by a peridomestic animal such as a rat, or through the contamination of the natural environment (surface water) by the virus from an infected human to be very low. In addition, the experts underscored the possibility of illegal introduction of the virus into France through the indirect importation of contaminated animals from other EU countries.
Susceptibility and sensitivity: what’s the difference?
Susceptibility to a virus refers to the likelihood of an animal species hosting the virus without necessarily developing symptoms.
Sensitivity refers to the likelihood of the animal species showing clinical signs and/or lesions due to the virus.