Monkeypox and our pets, what do you need to know?

Monkeypox is in the news and of course, we have been asked if this disease could pose a threat to our pets. This is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can spread between people and animals. The Monkeypox virus is classified as an Orthopoxvirus. It was first seen in West Africa and it is believed that small mammals like rats maintain and transmit the virus. People can get infected with the virus through direct contact with infected animals, their body parts, and fluids including respiratory secretions, and potentially in urine and feces.
The name of the virus is because symptoms were first observed in non-human primates but in 2003, an
outbreak of monkeypox in domesticated prairie dogs occurred here in America. The origin of this outbreak was shared bedding and caging with a shipment of infected small mammals from West Africa. This led to 47 human cases in 6 states in the United States. Instances of animal-to-
animal and animal-to-person spread can easily occur. In order to stop an outbreak, we must isolate infected people as well as exposed and infected pets. Many people vaccinated with the smallpox virus vaccine seem to have protection against this new threat. However, smallpox was eradicated in 1972, and vaccines were stopped, therefore the newer generations seem at risk.
Monkeypox virus can infect a myriad of mammal species, including monkeys, anteaters, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, squirrels, and dogs. Orthopox viruses have not been found in birds or reptiles yet.
The usual clinical signs in people are rashes and ulcerative lesions, but in animals, there may not be any skin rashes or lesions. Instead, it could manifest as a fever, lethargy, and other nonspecific malaise.
Infected animals can spread the Monkeypox virus to people, and it is possible that people who are infected can spread Monkeypox virus to animals through close contact, including petting, cuddling, kissing, and sharing sleeping areas or food.
Monkeypox virus can be found in the rash caused by monkeypox (scabs, crusts, fluids) and infected bodily fluids, including respiratory secretions, and potentially in urine and feces.
How can you protect your pets from this disease? If you are diagnosed with the Monkeypox virus, please make arrangements for your pets to be taken care of while isolated from you. If it is not possible to send the pets away, then limit physical touch and put a safe distance between you and your pets. Wash your hands often and use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for and cleaning up after your pets. In case your pet develops the disease, please quarantine it inside the house for 21 days. Flush the pet’s waste in the toilet so as to not contaminate wildlife. The CDC has an information page with more advice on how to disinfect the house and keep it safe. The silver lining about this disease is that has low mortality and that supportive treatment should help both you and your pets recover. If you have any questions please ask your veterinarian.