COLUMBUS, Ohio — Zoos across the country are vaccinating some of the most high-risk animals for COVID-19.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds will soon start the process of vaccinating prioritized species including great apes and big cats.
"I, and many other veterinarians, would wonder if there is enough benefit to vaccinating our pets to do that," she said. "It seems like it would be an unnecessary expense."
O'Quin explained cats and dogs are different than the animals at the zoo in how they handle the virus.
"[Pets] rarely get infected, and when they get infected, they rarely get sick. There's no evidence that they are transmitting to people or even other animals in the home, so there is not a strong need in that situation," she said. "The big cats are a different species...the big cats do tend to get sicker. There are still quite a few who are infected, who don't develop clinical signs or just mild clinical signs, but some of the big cats do develop more severe diseases. So, providing a vaccine to them can be very protective."
O’Quin added it is more likely COVID-19 would spread among primates.
"If we were going to have a species that would be able to give it back, that would be one of them. I think that's also a really good species to vaccinate to provide that extra barrier of protection from us to them, and though we haven't seen it, potentially from them to us," she said.
Veterinarians suggest the best way to protect your pet from COVID-19 is for you to get vaccinated as the owner.
"There's no reason to be afraid of them - just keep loving them as part of your family," O'Quin said.