HONOLULU (KHON2) — The death of the 13-year-old African male lion Ekundu at the Honolulu Zoo in mid-October has some people asking when the COVID vaccine will be available for their animals. With the number of pets contracting the virus on the mainland rising, pet owners can rest assured that a vaccine should be out soon.
For many people, pets are like members of the family, and keeping them healthy is very important. One expert said that a vaccine to protect pets and animals from getting COVID-19 could be available as early as January 2022.
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So far there are no confirmed cases of pets with COVID in the Hawaiian islands.
“There have been some cases I guess that were suspicious,” Kailua Animal Clinic Veterinarian Candice Denham explained. “But, no, we don’t have any documented cases testing positive in Hawaii.”
According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Agency, there have been 102 cat cases and 90 dog cases of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID — identified on the mainland.
Denham said almost all mammals are susceptible to the coronavirus, but cats seem to contract it more often. The virus is believed to be transmitted from human to animal; not the other way around. Denham added that a pet would likely exhibit symptoms similar to humans if they caught the virus.
“Probably lethargy, decreased appetite, maybe some sneezing, possibly some increased respiratory effort,” Denham explained.
She also said she treated a dog early in the COVID pandemic — before there were tests — whose owner thought it might have COVID, but there was no way to check, and the dog died. For anyone who thinks their pet has COVID, Denham said to bring it to see a veterinarian so that they can conduct tests.
“Cats can be infected by a viral infection, unrelated to COVID-19 that can have very similar symptoms, not quite as severe,” Denham stated. “And dogs can have kennel cough, also which is similar but not as severe than what you’d see with COVID-19.”
Once other illnesses have been ruled out, the veterinarian would have to notify the state veterinarian about a possible COVID case and the test would be ordered. The good news is a vaccine for animals is in the works.
“There are some trials being done on vaccine for pets, mainly in cats, and that is expected to come out sometime at the end of this year, beginning of next year,” Denham added.
There are also a number of other more exotic animals that caught the virus, according to the USDA: 35 lions, 32 tigers, 13 gorillas, 10 snow leopards, seven otters and 17 mink.
The Honolulu Zoo confirmed the only two positive cases of an animal with COVID-19 in Hawaii in October –both were African lions. Ekundu, the 13-year-old male died from COVID. Moxy, the female lion, is doing fine.
The Honolulu Zoo Director Linda Santos said they ordered 72 doses of the experimental vaccine over the summer. of 2021 They hope it will arrive within the next seven weeks.
“We’re just trying to get approval right now,” Santos said. “What that entails is a permit from USDA. We also have to notify the state veterinarian to get approval. We also have to give them a list of the exact animals we’re going to be using it on.”
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Santos explained that it is taking a long time to get the vaccine because it is in high demand. There is limited supply and it has not been federally approved yet.
The zoo plans to give shots to exotic cats, dogs, non-human primates, as well as giraffes and other hooved animals.