Scientists in France say they have found what they believe could be the first incident of monkeypox being transmitted from an infected person to their pet dog.
The case has been reported in The Lancet medical journal and the researchers said it should prompt wider debate on how pets could be protected when their owners have the disease.
But Defra officials said the report does not change their assessment of the risk.
The paper reported two men, who lived in the same household, tested positive for the virus after attending a Paris hospital in June.
Their dog, a four-year-old male Italian greyhound, was found to have the disease 12 days after first showing symptoms.
The men reported co-sleeping with the dog, but the paper said they had taken care to prevent contact between him and other animals or humans once they had started to show symptoms.
The paper read: “To the best of our knowledge, the kinetics of symptom onset in both patients and, subsequently, in their dog suggest human-to-dog transmission of monkeypox virus.
“Our findings should prompt debate on the need to isolate pets from monkeypox virus-positive individuals. We call for further investigation on secondary transmissions via pets.”
Although wild rodents and primates are known to carry the virus, and transmission has been reported where infected animals have come into contact with others without the virus, no previous cases of domestic pets being infected have been reported.
Latest data from the UK Health Security Agency, up to August 8, showed 2,914 monkeypox cases in humans had been confirmed, plus 103 that were deemed highly probable.
Defra said while the French case improved the evidence base, its assessment of the risk of human-to-pet transmission remains low.
A spokesperson said: “We will continue to monitor the situation and update our risk assessment should the situation change.”
Owners who will test positive for the virus are being advised to avoid close contact with their pet, its bedding or litter. Where possible, it is also advised that another member of the household should prepare the pet’s food and carry out grooming work, and that individual should also reduce direct contact as much as possible.