Could my dog get and spread the new Coronavirus infection?
One of the problems with new infections is that there are a lot of unknowns. Even though various coronaviruses had been around for a long time, the COVID-19 is different.
Human transmission is what led to the global pandemic. However, the reports on the infection found in a dog triggered a new kind of panic. Unfortunately, many people are abandoning their dogs. Animal rescues globally are reporting an influx of surrendered dogs. People are afraid that their dogs could carry and communicate the disease.
There is no evidence of our dogs being a threat to us. There is, however, evidence that pet dogs are being harmed as a result of our fears.
Further information: Unfounded Fears That Dogs Can Spread COVID-19 Can Cause Harm
The report that started the panic
On February 26, 2020, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department reported a case of a 17-year-old Pomeranian who tested “weak positive” for the COVID-19. The dog was not ill. The testing took place because the owner was ill with the virus. While the owner was hospitalized, the dog was placed in quarantine and subsequently tested.
After two weeks of quarantine, no signs of illness, and two successive negative test results, the dog was able to return home. Two days after the release from quarantine, the dog passed away. Was it from the infection? Don’t forget the dog was quite old and had existing health issues. According to WSAVA President Dr. Shane Ryan, the Pomeranian dog did not die from the virus.
Reference–Information for Pet Owners: No evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted from pets
On March 19, 2020, a report of a second positive dog also came out of Hong Kong. This dog too belongs to an owner who came down with the infection. There are two dogs sharing the household but one of them tested negative. Neither of the dogs is ill.
It is very likely that the two positive cases [in Hong Kong] are examples of human-to-dog transmission.Professor Malik Peiris, public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong
Dr. Shane Ryan, President of WSAVA says this dog is showing no signs either of the coronavirus disease or being able to transmit it to other pets or people.
The big picture
Based on the above numbers, what looks more likely? Dogs infecting humans or humans having infected the dogs in the two outlier cases?
There is currently no evidence that dogs are susceptible to the disease and no evidence that pet dogs could be a source of infection to people. Human to animal transmission of coronaviruses that cause respiratory disease in people is possible but has been rare.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) issued a press release on March 20, 2020, that there is no evidence that people could contract COVID-19 from their pets.
Some diagnostics labs in North America now offer COVID-19 testing in animals as part of organized surveillance studies. To date, IDEXX laboratories tested thousands of canine specimens, and none of them came back positive. One caveat with that is that none of them were from known infected households. It’s good they’re testing negative but not test dogs that belong to an infected owner? That might need some rethinking.
Bottom line is that the experts in the field to date all agree that there is
- no evidence of dogs being sickened by COVID-19
- no evidence of dogs being able to spread COVID-19 to people.
What I think
In the light of current information I don’t see how dogs could be a danger to their owners. Under any circumstance I would not abandon my dog.
At this time, I’d be more concerned about potentially infecting my dog than the other way around. While there is no evidence as of now suggesting dogs get sick, but perhaps they could.
I did think about reducing risk, though, wondering whether I should avoid letting people pet my dog, for example. That notion isn’t as out there as it seems because it might be possible that the coat might get contaminated.
Instead of writing out all my thoughts, I refer you to Dr. Weese’s article where he covers all that in great detail.
There are many unknowns about this new virus and little data. I believe it’s a good idea to protect our dogs from exposure–for our sake and theirs. At this point, however, the odds of our dogs getting it first and transmitting it to us is minimal. The opposite scenario is much more likely.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recites the same information as other sources:
- the exact source of the current outbreak is unknown
- no evidence that companion animals can spread COVID-19
- no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19
If you are sick with COVID-19, protect your dog the same way as other people.
There is no reason for anybody to abandon their dog.
Websites to keep up with up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and pets:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–Animals and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
World Health Organization–Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters