What you need to know about pets and Ebola

This Oct. 13, 2014, photo released via Twitter by the City of Dallas Public Information Managing Director Sana Syed shows Bentley in Dallas, the one-year-old King Charles Spaniel belonging to Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted Ebola. Bentley has been taken from Pham's Dallas apartment and will be cared for at an undisclosed location. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Sana Syed/PIO, City of Dallas)

(AP/WAVY) — After a dog in Spain exposed to Ebola was put to death and a dog infected with the disease was quarantined in Texas, veterinarians are speaking out about how Ebola interacts with pets.

This week, officials said the year-old King Charles Spaniel belonging to the Dallas nurse hospitalized with Ebola has been given comfortable bedding, toys and other items to entertain him while he stays at a decommissioned naval air base.

City spokeswoman Sana Syed said Tuesday that the dog, Bentley, is staying in the former residence of the executive officer at the decommissioned Hensley Field, which is owned by the city. Bentley was moved Monday from nurse Nina Pham’s apartment to his new home, where he’ll be monitored.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said city officials vowed to do everything in their power to care for Pham’s beloved pet. That is in stark contrast to the way Madrid authorities handled a dog belonging to a nursing assistant sickened by Ebola. Authorities were concerned the dog might be harboring the virus, and so they euthanized it, causing an uproar in Spain.

In response to the two situations, doctors with Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners released the following list of important things to know concerning Ebola and pets:

  • Diseases that can pass between humans and animals are referred to as zoonotic diseases. This is important because 62 percent of American households have at least one pet according to a 2012 Humane Society survey. Because of this, veterinarians play a vital role in recognizing and preventing the spread of disease.
  • Ebola is zoonotic, but the extent to which it actually affects animals is not well known. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists believe that the first patient became infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate (apes and monkeys), which is called a spillover event. Person-to-person transmission follows and can lead to large numbers of affected persons. In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.

  • As for dogs and cats becoming infected with Ebola,there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola, even though they may develop antibodies from exposure to the disease.Certainly a greater understanding of the effects of Ebola on dogs and cats is needed.

  • According to the CDC, the risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.

  • Beyond the more common household pets, some people do keep monkeys as pets. According to the CDC, monkeys are at risk for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola infection in monkeys include fever, decreased appetite and sudden death. Monkeys should not be allowed to have contact with anyone who may have Ebola. Healthy monkeys already living in the United States and without exposure to a person infected with Ebola are not at risk for spreading Ebola.

  •  If there is a pet in the home of an Ebola patient, the CDC recommends that veterinarians, in collaboration with public health officials, evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure. Appropriate measures, such as closely monitoring the exposed pet while taking necessary precautions, should be put in place.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CDC and other partners continue to work together to develop additional guidance for pet owners in the U.S.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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