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. Many people were abandoning their dogs. Animal rescues globally were 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
There is an important reporting of a canine case of COVID-19 in the Netherlands. What makes it noteworthy is the fact that this dog not only tested positive for the new SARS-CoV-2 antibodies but was euthanized because of severe respiratory disease. It is not clear how those two things are related.
Until now, none of the positive dogs got sick and it appeared that they cannot develop a respiratory disease even when they are infected. It is unclear whether the respiratory disease in this particular dog was due to the infection or it had another cause. It was an American Bulldog and this breed has its own respiratory challenges.
Further information: Dogs, Cats, Mink: A Dutch Menagerie of SARS-CoV-2 Cases
First CoV-2 case in a dog was announced in June–a German Shepherd owned by a COVID-19 positive owner in New York state. It is not confirmed whether his issues were from the infection or for another reason.
This dog is the first one reported having signs of respiratory disease. The second dog in the same household was healthy but did test positive for CoV-2 antibodies.
Both dogs in the household were infected, even though only one got sick and tested positive by PCR. The assumption has been that human-to-dog transmission is uncommon, and that still might be the case, but finding transmission to multiple dogs in a household is interesting.Dr. Weese, Worms and Germs blog
Further information: SARS-CoV-2 in Dogs: USA
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.
Update April 9, 2020: The dog remained healthy and after initial positive tests continues to test negatively.
That’s consistent with the current thought that dogs have relatively low susceptibility to the virus and don’t shed it for long if they happen to become infected …Dr. Weese, Worms and Germs blog
Third report of COVID-19 in a dog and an update
The first known case of a dog testing positive for COVID-19 in the US was reported in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The dog’s name is Winston. He is a Pug and lives in a household with people who were infected. Winston came down with mild respiratory symptoms. He was tested as part of the household surveillance study coordinated by researchers at Duke University. The family has another dog, a cat, and a lizard, but they all tested negative.
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 some evidence that a dog might catch the virus from their humans and possibly show mild symptoms. Though, the above Pug in question might have had respiratory symptoms from being a Pug or for a different reason. Causality or coincidence are often hard to distinguish.
What does the report of the first COVID-19-positive do in the US mean? Nothing new.
- There’s a chance for human-pet transmission of this virus.
- Animal health implications are probably limited.
- The human health implications are unknown at this point (but are probably quite low in the grand scheme of things).
What does that mean in practice? Protect your dog the way you protect yourself.
Further information: SARS-CoV-2 in a dog: North Carolina
Can your dog infect you?
To date, there is no evidence that would suggest that.
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 seem to agree that there is
- COVID-19 is spread almost exclusively, if not exclusively, person-to-person
- A pet owner is much more likely to transmit the virus TO their pet than to get it FROM their pet
Reference: Pets and COVID-19 fears
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.
Further updated information: Pets and COVID-19 fears
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:
Worms and Germs Blog (the best source IMO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–Animals and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)