Important Information Regarding the Monkeypox Outbreak

What follows is a notice from the Public Health Agency of Canada to pet industry members about the recent outbreak of Monkeypox and how it could impact some animals, caregivers, and professionals.  Please read the text below and share it with others in your network in order to help disseminate the information about precautions and safety measures.

Important Information Regarding the Monkeypox Outbreak
Public Health Agency of Canada
July 14, 2022

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working with provincial and territorial public health partners to investigate human cases of monkeypox infections in Canada. As of July 13, 2022, there have been 477 human cases reported in Canada. It is anticipated that additional cases will be reported. The investigation is ongoing and new updates will be shared at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/monkeypox.html

The current spread of monkeypox infections is a result of human-to-human transmission; infections have been limited to spread between intimate partners, or between people who are living in the same household. However, it is possible that people who are infected could spread the monkeypox virus to animals through close contact during handling and care, or indirect contact through contaminated items, similar to how the virus can be spread between people.

There are a number of animal species that are known to be susceptible to the virus, especially rodents. For example, in 2003, there was an outbreak of 47 human cases of monkeypox in the United States linked to pet prairie dogs that were exposed to imported Gambian pouched rats and African dormice.

Some susceptible species that may be kept as specialty pets include:

  • Rodents, for example squirrels (tree squirrels, ground squirrels such as prairie dogs, and others), jerboas, African dormice, chinchillas, and certain species of rats/mice (e.g. African soft-furred rats)
  • Non-human primates, such as monkeys
  • Insectivores, such as African hedgehogs (pygmy hedgehogs)
  • Lagomorphs, such as rabbits

We do not currently know the susceptibility of many other animal species, however, there are likely others that can be infected. More information on the susceptibility of different animal species can be found on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

People with symptoms of monkeypox should avoid contact with animals, including pets, and should contact their health care provider immediately.

If you have been diagnosed with monkeypox, you should isolate until all scabs have fallen off and skin lesions have healed. Until your lesions resolve, you are still able to infect those around you.

  • To prevent possible spread to animals, you should have another member of your household care for your pets.
  • If this is not possible, you should cover all lesions with clothing or bandages, wear a well-fitting medical mask and gloves when near your animals, and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently.
  • Practice diligent hand hygiene, such as handwashing, and respiratory etiquette when coughing or sneezing.
  • Follow all guidance from your local public health authority.
  • More information on preventing spread of monkeypox can be found at: Monkeypox: Public health management of cases and contacts in Canada.

Currently, the clinical signs of monkeypox in different species are not fully understood, but infected animals may show:

  • Skin lesions/rash (note that not all animals may have a rash)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Red, watery eyes
  • General signs of illness such as fever, fatigue/lack of energy and decreased appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Respiratory signs (for example, sneezing, coughing, laboured breathing, runny nose)
  • Death

If an animal develops any of these signs and may have been exposed to someone with monkeypox or needs care, call your veterinarian. Veterinarians with concerns should contact the office of the Chief Veterinarian for their province or territory for guidance. Human health concerns should be referred immediately to your local public health authority.