Can pets get Ebola?


It’s a question many veterinary assistants are probably fielding these days as the deadly disease spreads throughout west Africa and as a few cases have been reported in the United States.


Some of the most important jobs of a veterinary assistant include answering the questions of pet owners. Veterinary assistants have a lot of interaction with pet owners and they often field questions about concerns they might have or help pet owners learn how to better care for their pet.


As the Ebola disease grows, veterinary officials are offering advice to veterinary workers.


“The death of an international traveler diagnosed in the U.S. as having the Ebola virus disease (EVD), coupled with the precautionary measure by Spanish health officials to euthanize the dog of an exposed healthcare worker, have raised questions and concerns among veterinarians and the public alike,” the American Veterinary Medical Association stated in a press release on its website.


Some of the questions pet owners and veterinary officials might have include: How will the U.S. react if faced with an increased number of EVD patients? Is there any chance that what happened in Spain could happen here? Is it even possible for dogs to get EVD or spread it to humans?


“We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you,” the press release stated. “The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the United States.”


While more research is done, here are some facts about animals and Ebola, according to the AVMA:


  • At this time, the CDC states that there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread the virus to people or animals. Even in areas of Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with the virus.
  • The chances of a dog being exposed to Ebola virus in the U.S. are very low.  Exposure requires close contact with bodily fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection. This is why it is important for individuals symptomatic with the disease to avoid contact with animals and others to the extent possible.  We do not yet know whether or not a pet’s body or fur can transmit Ebola to people or other animals.
  • Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with: Blood or body fluids (e.g., urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with the virus. Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus. Infected fruit bats or nonhuman primates
  • Ebola is not spread through air, water, or food, with the exception of handling or consuming infected bushmeat (food derived from wild animals, such as fruit bats and nonhuman primates). There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects transmit Ebola virus, and only a few species of mammals (e.g.  humans, nonhuman primates, and fruit bats) are noted to be susceptible and capable of spreading the virus.
  • Symptoms of Ebola in people may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days (average 8 to 10 days)  after exposure and  include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).


Veterinary assistants play a crucial role in communicating with pet owners about their concerns and Ebola is likely to be a topic of discussion in veterinary practices for the next few weeks.


If you have a passion for animals and would enjoy working with pet owners and answering their questions, then becoming a veterinary assistant could be the right career for you. Milwaukee Career College offers a veterinary assistant training program that equips you with the skills today’s veterinary employers are looking for.