The coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, has been linked to severe cases of heart disease in pets who appear to have caught the infections from their humans, veterinarians near London report.
The original strain of the virus did not appear to cause serious illness in pets. But between mid-December and February, mirroring the emergence and spread of B.1.1.7, the vets noticed a sudden surge of cats and dogs with myocarditis, a serious inflammation of the heart.
In a paper posted on bioRxiv ahead of peer review, they describe 11 animals who suddenly became critically ill.
Two cats and one dog immediately tested positive for B.1.1.7; another two cats and one dog later tested positive for antibodies.
Many owners of these affected pets had a recent history of confirmed COVID-19.
Myocarditis in pets remains rare, and in all of these cases it appears that the infections were passed from people to pets, and not vice versa, said coauthor Dr. Luca Ferasin of The Ralph Veterinary Centre in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
Infected cats and dogs made a remarkable clinical improvement after a few days in intensive care he added.