Excalibur, a beloved family dog, was euthanized on Weds, Oct 8th in Madrid, Spain. He was sedated beforehand as many pets are prior to euthanasia. Following the procedure, his body was sealed in a biosecurity device and transferred to a disposal facility for incineration. Excalibur was incinerated because he belonged to Theresa Romero – a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola. Madrid’s regional government obtained a court order to destroy the dog as a necessary precaution in containing the Ebola virus. This action has raised discussion within the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and within the animal loving community worldwide. What do we know?
As it stands now, exposure to the Ebola virus in the U.S. is extremely low. The likelihood of a canine patient of Deerfield Veterinary Hospital being exposed to Ebola virus is highly unlikely. There are no known animal cases of Ebola in the U.S. In order for a canine to contract Ebola, the dog would have to make direct contact with bodily secretions of a human symptomatic with Ebola. While this could more easily happen in those stricken areas of West Africa, it is doubtful to occur elsewhere.
A large serologic study of dogs was conducted during the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak in Gabon, Africa. Although the dogs in the study lived closely with humans and were deemed pets by villagers, the dogs were not treated as pets as we know it in the U.S. These dogs were not fed regularly and had to scavenge for their food. The dogs ate small dead animals and internal organs of wild animals hunted and slaughtered by the African villagers. Some dogs were observed to have eaten fresh remains of Ebola virus-infected dead animals brought back to the villages. Some dogs licked vomit from Ebola virus-infected patients. Obviously, this situations would not occur in the U.S. or in much of the world. At the conclusion of the study, 25% of the dogs in the affected area in Gabon were found to have antibodies against the Ebola virus. However, none of the dogs had circulating Ebola viral antigens or Ebola viral DNA in their serum samples. None of the dogs showed clinical signs or died of Ebola Viral Disease during the study. The study only concluded that the animals had been exposed to the disease. 1
Obviously what occurred with dogs in the Gabon, Africa study and what is happening now in West Africa are extremely different situations than what could occur in a household in Springfield Missouri. The CDC recommends that if a pet is in the home of an Ebola patient, veterinarians in a collaborative effort with public health officials should carefully determine the pet’s risk of exposure to bodily fluids of the Ebola patient. Appropriate measures and necessary precautions should be taken based on the risk assessment. A coordinated effort by the AVMA has begun compiling and disseminating information for United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified veterinarians including Dr. Denise Roche, Dr. Laura Hilton, Dr. Craig Bendickson and Dr. Ned Caldwell. Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is committed to providing pertinent information of how pets will be treated and cared for during infectious disease outbreaks.
A key point to remember is that there is currently no evidence that infected dogs can shed the Ebola virus. Again the study conducted in Gabon did not find any viral antigens in the dog blood samples. The study only detected antibodies in the dog’s serum samples. While questions do remain and deficits in our knowledge are apparent, there is limited concern about dogs naturally transmitting the Ebola virus at this time.
If you have any questions about infectious disease prevention, we would love to meet your pet and recommend the option that’s right for his or her needs: Get in touch with a Deerfield Veterinary Hospital staff member.
1. “Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk” Loïs Allela, Olivier Bourry, Régis Pouillot, André Délicat, Philippe Yaba, Brice Kumulungui,
Pierre Rouquet, Jean-Paul Gonzalez, and Eric M. Leroy. Emerging Infectious Diseases • www.cdc.gov/eid • Vol. 11, No. 3, March 2005.