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Cats, dogs, dolphins and more animals get Covid-19 tests

As Covid-19 cases surge in the US, one Texas veterinarian has been quietly tracking the spread of the disease — not in people, but in their pets.



a dog sitting on a table: Texas A&M University student Ed Davila holds Stella, one of hundreds of household pets tested during A&M's study of pets exposed to Covid-19 by their infected owners. The 2½-year-old Pomeranian tested negative.


© Sarah Hamer/Kaiser Health News
Texas A&M University student Ed Davila holds Stella, one of hundreds of household pets tested during A&M’s study of pets exposed to Covid-19 by their infected owners. The 2½-year-old Pomeranian tested negative.

Since June, Sarah Hamer and her team at Texas A&M University have tested hundreds of animals from area households where humans contracted Covid-19. They’ve swabbed dogs and cats, sure, but also pet hamsters and guinea pigs, looking for signs of infection. “We’re open to all of it,” said Hamer, a professor of epidemiology, who has found at least 19 cases of infection.

One pet that tested positive was Phoenix, a 7-year-old part-Siamese cat owned by Kaitlyn Romoser, who works in a university lab. Romoser, 23, was confirmed to have Covid-19 twice, once in March and again in September. The second time she was much sicker, she said, and Phoenix was her constant companion.

“If I would have known animals were just getting it everywhere, I would have tried to distance myself, but he will not distance himself from me,” Romoser said. “He sleeps in my bed with me. There was absolutely no social distancing.”

Across the country, veterinarians and other researchers are scouring the animal kingdom for signs of the virus that causes Covid-19. At least 2,000 animals in the US have been tested for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to federal records. Cats and dogs that were exposed to sick owners represent most of the animals tested and 80% of the positive cases found.



a woman holding a cat: Kaitlyn Romoser and her 7-year-old cat, Phoenix, both tested positive for the coronavirus. Romoser tested positive in March and again in September.


© (Emil Koseoglu/Kaiser Health News
Kaitlyn Romoser and her 7-year-old cat, Phoenix, both tested positive for the coronavirus. Romoser tested positive in March and again in September.

But scientists have cast a wide net investigating other animals that could be at risk. In states from California to Florida, researchers have tested species ranging from farmed minks and zoo cats to unexpected critters like dolphins, armadillos and anteaters.

Fur farm outbreaks

The US Department of Agriculture keeps an official tally of confirmed animal Covid-19 cases that stands at several dozen. But that list is a vast undercount of actual infections. In Utah and Wisconsin, for instance, more than 14,000 minks died in recent weeks after contracting Covid-19 infections initially spread by humans.

So far, there’s limited evidence that animals are transmitting the virus to people. Veterinarians emphasize that pet owners appear to be in no danger from their furry companions and should continue to love and care for them. But scientists say continued testing is one way to remain vigilant in the face of a previously unknown pathogen.

“We just know that coronaviruses, as a family, infect a lot of species, mostly mammals,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and the director of the University of Washington Center for One Health Research in

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fitness

Track your dog’s fitness with this Fitbit for your pet

The idea of an activity monitor for humans is pretty old news now, but if you’ve ever wondered just how your pet pooch matches up, then a pet activity monitor could be just what you need. 



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Of course, it’s more than just about curiosity – pet activity trackers are a great way to monitor your pet’s health, especially if you’re not the only one in charge of walkies.

With the PawFit 2 pet tracker, you can monitor your pet’s movements in the form of steps, distance covered, calories burned, active and rest hours and best of all, it can all be personalised for your pet’s age, breed and weight.

Perhaps your pooch has put on a few pounds during lockdown (who hasn’t), using a tracker like this can help you establish exactly how much activity they’re doing and adjust their diet accordingly. If you leave your furry friend alone, you can also see how much activity they’re getting up to while you’re out of the house. 

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The PawFit 2 is easy to attach to your dog’s collar, but crucially, it’s harder to detach thanks to a secure lock. It’s well-suited to all kinds of activities, and is also designed to withstand all weather conditions, too. 

Not only is the PawFit excellent for monitoring activity, though. It’s also great for putting your mind at rest – there’s a temperature alert, a removal alert and a “virtual fence” which means that if your pet wanders outside of a customisable “safety zone”, you’ll also be alerted. 

You can record a voice message for the device which can be played by strangers if they should happen across your escaped pooch, too. Not that you should need it, as you’ll always be able to locate your pet quickly with real-tip GPS plus light and sound tracking – great for those with a flight-risk tendency.

Pawfit has a battery which can last up to 7 days of regular use (it’s impacted by GPS and cellular signal strength). An app (Pawfit Walk) which is compatible with iOS or Android can be downloaded which gives you a range of functions including the ability to start and stop a walk at specific time, note down where and when they stop to drink and eat, take photos and videos during a walk to keep a complete record of their walks and the ability to share your walks with friends and other Pawfit users. 

You can pick up the Pawfit 2 directly from the Pawfit website, complete with an 18 month warranty and 30 day money-back guarantee. It’s also available to buy on Amazon.



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health

Guide Dogs for the Blind and American Foundation for the Blind Launch Extensive Research Study

Two-Year Project To Examine Long-Term Outlook For Guide Dog Use

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) has announced a new partnership with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to embark on an in-depth, two-year research study to examine the long-term outlook for guide dog use in the United States and Canada.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201021005166/en/

Courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind

This first-of-its-kind study seeks to determine why guide dog ownership is much more prevalent among people who are blind or visually impaired in the United Kingdom, compared to the United States and Canada. To do this, GDB will gather data from those with direct experience with GDB and guide dog schools in Europe.

The study will also include extensive interviews with orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors across North America to assess their training, skills, and knowledge in evaluating whether a guide dog is a viable option for students and clients who are blind or visually impaired. O&M instructors are an important link between people who are blind or visually impaired and the guide dog lifestyle, as they often advise their students about whether a guide dog is right for them as well as help teach O&M skills required to qualify for a guide dog.

“This is the most comprehensive research we’ve ever been a part of, and we hope its findings will help us remove barriers over the next decade for more new clients to experience the life-changing empowerment that a guide dog can bring to their lives,” said Theresa Stern, vice president of outreach, admissions, and alumni services for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “We’re thrilled to partner with the American Foundation for the Blind, a leader in designing research that leads to impactful policies and practices for people who are blind or visually impaired.”

“This collaboration with Guide Dogs for the Blind underscores AFB’s commitment to evidence-based advocacy intended to empower people who are blind or have low vision,” said Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, AFB director of research. “We are grateful to partner with such a prestigious and historic organization and look forward to gathering and analyzing data that will ultimately better serve those who are visually impaired and anyone who is vested in providing people with vision loss options for independent travel.”

The two-year study will also take into account projections related to the most common occurrences of visual impairment and anticipated changes in demographics over the next 20 years. Its findings will be published in peer-reviewed research journals and will be presented at conferences focused on blindness.

About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., Guide Dogs for the Blind is more than an industry-leading guide dog school; it is a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. GDB prepares highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or visually impaired. All of its services are provided free of charge. GDB receives no government funding. More than

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