A Sydney vet says he is being asked by some clients if they should euthanise their pets amid growing fears about the spread of coronavirus.
Dr Sam Kovac, a veterinarian who treats animals in the city's inner-city and inner west said there had been a spike in pet owners questioning whether the virus can be transmitted from their animals.
Fears about the spread of the virus is mounting, with reports four days ago of people in China throwing cats and dogs from tower blocks.
Coronaviruses are classified as zoonotic diseases, meaning they can spread from people to animals. However, in the case of this particular strain of coronavirus (officially named 2019-nCoV), bats are the original hosts.
The virus spread to other animals via the saliva or faeces of bats, and subsequently to workers at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
"In the last couple of weeks, two people have phoned to ask if they could book into have a discussion with a vet to have their animals put to sleep because of fears of coronavirus," Dr Kovac said.
"These are people who are so hysterical about the virus they were considering euthanisia as a way to protect their family.
"Our receptionists were shocked. Euthanisa is something we need to treat with the utmost respect.
"There is testing available for coronavirus, and these two people hadn't had their pets tested."
The Huanan wet market specialises in the sale of wildlife; with the South China Morning Post reporting the market had more than 120 species of wildlife being sold live as food, Dr Kovac wrote on the Southern Cross Vets' blog.
These included badgers, hedgehogs, wolf pups, bats, snakes and even koalas
Wet markets place people and live and dead animals in close contact, making it easy for a virus to jump species.
One of the biggest problems with the virus is that it doesn't cause symptoms to wild animals who have it.
However, when animals are killed for food or eaten raw or improperly cooked, the virus can infect humans where it does cause symptoms, Dr Kovac said.
Animals like cats and dogs may carry a strain of coronavirus; however, Dr Kovac stressed this is completely different to the coronavirus currently infecting thousands.
"Coronavirus in dogs is actually really common and highly contagious, but only normally causes mild gastro symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting (if any symptoms at all)," Dr Kovac said.
"Sometimes it can even be a lifelong infection as the virus can reproduce by itself in your dog's intestine's cells."
Dr Kovac's advised there are tests available if you think your dog may have coronavirus.
The situation with cats and coronavirus is slightly different, Dr Kovac said.
Like with dog coronavirus, it rarely causes any problems at all, and most infected cats never show any symptoms at all."
However, when this virus decides to mutate it creates a horrible disease called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) which shuts down all the organs in cats and causes fluid to accumulate in the belly, lungs and brains.
"It's an incredibly painful disease and has a protracted length of suffering until death ensues," Dr Kovac said.
"There's no treatment at all and a diagnosis of FIP is a death sentence with euthanasia recommended as soon as a diagnosis of FIP is made to avoid suffering."
Can you catch coronavirus from your dog or cat?
The coronavirus dogs and cats get is totally different to the coronavirus pandemic occurring now.
While there have been no human cases of coronavirus being transmitted from their pets, mutations in all viruses can happen that allows the virus to cross the species barrier.
However, in all the hundreds of years of monitoring, this hasn't happened with the dog or cat coronavirus.
There is a safe vaccine available against dog coronavirus, and it makes up part of the 'lepto' vaccine; so if your dog received the leptospirosis vaccination, they also would have been immunised against coronavirus.
Source: Dr Sam Kovac BVSc (Merit)