Few people could fail to be sorry to hear that Excalibur, the pet dog of a Spanish nursing assistant who contracted ebola, has been killed in the interests of public health. It becomes even more heartbreaking to read about how his owners had left him with a bathtub full of water and 30 pounds of dry food when they were taken away to be quarantined.
One wonders whether any of the protesters or the people who signed the petition aimed at saving Excalibur had thought about what would happen to all of the other animals in the country if there was a full blown outbreak of ebola. Here in the UK it is almost certain that ebola or even rabies would lead to mass culling of animals as a precaution.
It is known that dogs can pass ebola on to people.
Thus, dogsappear to be the first animal species shown to be naturallyand asymptomatically infected by Ebola virus.Asymptomatic Ebola infection in humans has also beenobserved during outbreaks (18) but is very rare. Althoughdogs can be asymptomatically infected, they may excreteinfectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for ashort period before virus clearance, as observed experi-mentally in other animals. Given the frequency of contactbetween humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infec-tion must be considered as a potential risk factor for humaninfection and virus spread. Human infection could occurthrough licking, biting, or grooming. Asymptomaticallyinfected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebolaoutbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks,which could explain some epidemiologically unrelatedhuman cases. Dogs might also be a source of human Ebolaoutbreaks, such as the 1976 Yambuku outbreaks inDemocratic Republic of Congo (19), the 1995 Kikwit out-break, some outbreaks that occurred in 1996 and 2004 inGabon and Republic of Congo (5), and the 1976 (6), 1979(20), and 2004 (21) outbreaks in Sudan, the sources ofwhich are still unknown. Together, these findings stronglysuggest that dogs should be taken into consideration dur-ing the management of human Ebola outbreaks. To con-firm the potential human risk of Ebola virus–infected dogs,the mechanisms of viral excretion (i.e. body fluids andvirus kinetics of excretion) should be investigated duringexperimental canine infection. This research would alsooffer insights into the natural resistance of dogs.