Our research team is interested in learning more about the degree to which pets are exposed or infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in high-risk households. We will perform research testing from many pets in the region to compare to data from other areas of the country and contribute to the scientific process. By doing so, we wish to understand the timing of animal infections in relation to human infections. We will look for evidence of the virus in the respiratory tract, the rectum, and also on the external fur of your pet.
Research testing is conducted in a laboratory on the Texas A&M University campus. Our goal is not to make a diagnosis of COVID-19 for your pet, and we will not provide any treatments or thorough clinical evaluations of your pet. We will take a few samples from your pet and then work in the laboratory to look for fragments of the virus, using molecular tests, as well as for antibodies, which indicate past exposure to the virus.
The following American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) resources provide information about pets and COVID-19:
The sampling process is intended to be simple and quick! This process will include:
- After you express your interest in participating in the study by submitting the contact form, we will call you to ask a few questions about your pet and arrange our visit.
- Three-to-four members of our research team (veterinarians, students, research managers) will arrive wearing masks and protective clothing.
- Standing outside, we will give you a consent form and review some details from our phone conversation, after which you can sign the form. We ask that all members of your household to please wear a mask while our team is present. We will bring extras to share if needed.
- You will collect your pet(s) from the house or yard and pass them to our team, either on a leash, by hand, or in a pet carrier.
- Working in your backyard, if possible, we will collect samples from your pet:
- We will swab your pet's mouth and nose, rectum, and fur on their neck and back;
- We will take a blood sample from their front leg, back leg, or neck; and
- If your pet is very stressed, we can use sedation medicines.
- Once your pet is active and happy after sampling, we will change our protective gear and sample additional pets from your house, or we will head back to campus.
Because we are not performing routine diagnostic tests and, instead, are conducting research, we do not have a confirmed turnaround time for sharing results. The time-sensitive step is to safely collect the samples from your pets soon after someone in the household tests positive. At the laboratory, we will begin to process the samples.
Some of the research will take weeks and other processes may take longer. There are back-orders for some laboratory supplies, and we need to ensure that supplies are prioritized for human use first. Pet samples can safely be stored in a freezer as needed.
Data from the study will be analyzed and published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals so other veterinarians and scientists can learn from our research. Any positive test result will be reported through the appropriate, state-level public health managers.
The goal of this research is to learn more about the different roles that pet animals may play in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We hope that the information will be used to enhance transmission surveillance programs and, ultimately, help protect both human and animal health.
If you have a confirmed human case of COVID-19 in your household, you have the unique opportunity to help us learn more. The quick and easy sample collection process at your home will give us material to work with for many months to come in the laboratory and, hopefully, will create new information to better manage this virus.
You're eligible to have your pets participate—regardless of when a member of your household was diagnosed with COVID-19. There is so much to learn about whether pets get infected and how long they stay infected. Because we will know the date of the human COVID-19 diagnosis in the household, we can account for this when we analyze the data from the samples we collect from your pet(s).
Adult owners of pets in a household with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 can opt-in to the study.
If you are not an adult owner of a pet who has had someone in your household test positive for COVID-19 but you know someone who may be interested in participating in this research, please ask them to visit tx.ag/JoinHamer.