SARS-CoV-2 variant found in pets, and it may cause heart issues

New studies have revealed that pets — namely dogs and cats — have been identified with SARS-CoV-2 variant infections, and though it hasn't yet been confirmed, it seems the virus may put the animals at risk of heart issues similar to the ones seen in some human patients. The discovery was made in the UK after veterinarians noticed an unusual spike in the number of pets suffering from a type of heart inflammation called myocarditis.

Researchers with the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development studied cats and dogs admitted to a veterinary clinic in London. The researchers focused specifically on pets that were in the cardiology unit, noting that the center had observed a spike in myocarditis patients from 1.4- to 12.8-percent between December 2020 and February 2021.

The observed increase in pets suffering from heart inflammation took place during the same time a SARS-CoV-2 variant called B.1.1.7 had spiked in the UK, spurring interest in its potential link to the cases. As part of their latest research on the topic, the researchers tested a total of three dogs and eight cats that had developed symptoms similar to the ones found in human COVID-19 patients, including trouble breathing.

None of these pets had a history of heart disease but were found via testing to have irregular heartbeats and other heart issues, as well as fluid in their lungs. Of these animals, seven were tested with reaction tests and three returned positive for the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant.

Two of the remaining animals tested positive for antibodies that indicated they had previously been infected with the virus. Though all of the pets eventually recovered, one of the cats is reported to have been euthanized after experiencing a relapse.

Many questions about the virus variant and its potential transmission rate between humans and animals remain. However, it's also important to note that it hasn't yet been demonstrated that the heart issues found in these pets were caused by the virus — additional research on the topic is necessary.