LSU vet school lab testing pet cats and dogs for COVID-19


TOPSHOT – An illustration photo shows Ziggie the dog wearing a mask put on her face by her owner in Los Angeles, on April 5, 2020. – After a tiger in the Bronx zoo tested positive for Covid-19 the zoo emphasized that there is “no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats.” (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana State University veterinary school’s diagnostic lab is providing free COVID-19 testing for dogs and cats in Louisiana through the end of the year, the school said Wednesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is paying for the tests, and the Louisiana Office of Public Health is also a partner in the program, a news release said.

Information available so far indicates that the risk of animals giving the disease to people is low, according to CDC website.

However, scientists have little data on cases in which the virus that causes COVID-19 may have contributed to an animal’s death, said Gary Balsamo, Louisiana’s public health veterinarian and assistant state epidemiologist.

“Further surveillance and research is necessary to identify and analyze animals that are severely affected by this virus,” he said.

People who think their pets have been exposed to the coronavirus are asked to have their veterinarian take samples.

The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory will send the veterinarian a free test kit, pay FedEx shipping if that is required, and process the sample for free.

Pet owners must complete a questionnaire and possibly talk to an epidemiologist. That information will all be confidential, the news release said.

Balsamo said, “While we understand the clinical presentation of diseases in some companion animals, the full spectrum of disease associated with COVID-19 in animals is not well characterized.”

Pet owners and veterinarians can contact the lab at 225-578-9777 if they have questions, or to request a sample collection kit.

“We are very excited to participate in the research and investigation of yet another companion animal disease potentially impacting the health and well-being of the animals and citizens of Louisiana,” said lab director Udeni Balasuriya.

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