Experts agree that prolonged personal skin-to-skin contact appears to be the primary way monkeypox is spreading in the current outbreak. However, a new case study finds that it may be possible for the virus to be passed from humans to their pets by way of snuggling or sharing a bed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now advises that people who are infected with monkeypox avoid close contact with their pets.
“Monkeypox is an animal virus so it is not surprising that it can pass from humans into other animals,” says Amesh A. Adalja MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Adalja agrees with the updated CDC guidance: People should isolate from their pets when they are contagious with monkeypox.
The First Known Case of a Pet Getting Monkeypox
According to a case study published in The Lancet, a 4-year-old Italian greyhound developed lesions and tested positive for monkeypox 12 days after its owners first experienced symptoms. The owners, two men who also have sex with other men, reported sharing a bed with their dog.
The owners also reported that once their own symptoms developed, they had been careful to prevent their dog from contact with other pets or humans.
“Our findings should prompt debate on the need to isolate pets from monkeypox virus-positive individuals,” wrote the authors.
The updated CDC guidance now states that people with monkeypox should avoid contact with animals, including pets, domestic animals, and wildlife to prevent spreading the virus. That includes petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food.
However, there’s no need for people who don’t have monkeypox to change their behavior around their pets, he says. “This is really about preventing spread to animals from individuals infected with monkeypox,” says Adalja.
Early guidance from the CDC had warned of the possibility of contracting monkeypox from an infected animal — either by being scratched or bitten by an infected animal or by preparing or eating meat or products from an infected animal.
In endemic countries (countries where monkeypox is constantly present), only rodents and primates have been found to carry the monkeypox virus, according to the study authors. Although monkeypox have been observed in animals in captivity, this is the first report of an infection in a pet, they wrote.
Monkeys Aren’t a Main Way the Virus Is Transmitted
Although monkeys can carry monkeypox, they are not a main source of transmission — contrary to what the name might suggest, according to Yale School of Medicine. “Monkeypox” was so named because scientists in Denmark saw evidence of the disease in monkeys first. In a statement released on August 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated its intent to conduct an open forum to rename the disease after critics pointed out that the name could be derogatory or have racist connotations.
What to Do if Your Pet Shows Signs of Monkeypox
Experts are still learning about the signs and symptoms of an animal infected with monkeypox. Known symptoms may include lethargy (lack of energy), lack of appetite, coughing, nasal secretions or crust, bloating, fever, and pimple- or blister-like skin rash.
If your pet has had close exposure with a symptomatic person with monkeypox and shows any signs of illness, call your veterinarian right away.
A few things not to do, according to the CDC:
- Do not euthanize pets with suspected monkeypox unless directed by a veterinarian.
- Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any type of industrial or surface cleaner.
For more guidance on prevention and care of animals who have or are suspected to have monkeypox, go the CDC website.