Dogs and Coronaviruses: Do We Share Coronavirus Infections with Dogs?

Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses classified by common properties.

Viruses are infectious agents made up of genetic material enclosed in a protein envelope. Different viruses target different species and various body systems. Different viral diseases can affect:

  • respiratory tract
  • gastrointestinal tract
  • circulatory system
  • nervous system
  • the skin
  • the liver

Coronaviruses got their name from the Latin word corona, meaning crown, which describes their unique appearance.

When viewed under electronic microscopy, coronavirus viral particles look like crowns because they’re covered in club-shaped protein spikes.

Dr. Christopher G. Byers, DVM, DACVECC, DACVIM (SAIM), CVJ

In people, coronaviruses usually cause upper-respiratory illnesses. Canine coronavirus attacks the dogs’ digestive tract.

Further information: Canine Coronavirus Disease

Dogs and Coronaviruses: Do We Share Coronavirus Infections with Dogs?

Viruses

Many viruses can infect only certain species and don’t affect others. That is because, in order to cause illness, the virus needs to access the cells. To enter, the virus requires a key. And just like with houses, every lock needs a key that fits. That applies to species as to different types of cells.

That’s why, for example, your dog cannot catch a common cold or flu from you and you won’t get kennel cough from your dog. Dogs can get the flu too but it is caused by a different virus–canine influenza.

Further information: Virus Infections and Hosts

Some viruses, however, found a way around this, such as Rabies.

Canine coronavirus (CCoV)

Canine coronavirus disease is an intestinal infection. It is highly infectious, especially in puppies. It spreads through poop and it doesn’t affect people.

Most dogs can have the virus but no illness. If they do get sick, the symptoms include:

  • diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite

Further information: Canine Coronavirus Disease

Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV)

Canine respiratory coronavirus is part of the kennel cough complex. It is genetically related to the human coronavirus that causes the common cold.

Further information: Canine Respiratory Coronavirus FAQ

Canine influenza

There are two viral strains that can cause flu in dogs. The two identified strains are H3N8 and H3N2. They both have similar symptoms and are different from the seasonal influenza viruses that infect people. There is no evidence that people can get infected with these viruses.

These strains belong to a different class of viruses than coronaviruses.

Further information: Canine Influenza

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a new viral infection that emerged at the end of 2019 in Wuhan province in China. This global pandemic is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a type of coronavirus.

At this time, while spreading like wildfire among the world human population, there is no evidence that it can sicken dogs or that pet dogs can spread the virus. The two Hong Kong dogs that tested positive both belonged to an already infected person. Human to animal transmission of coronaviruses that lead to respiratory disease in people is possible but rarely happened in the past.

However, Dr. Weese of the Ontario Veterinary college doesn’t rule out that dogs and cats could become sick. Which is a different matter from dogs communicating the disease.

An example of this is human influenza in dogs. We can pass the human influenza virus to dogs (it’s rare but it happens), but we consider them “dead-end hosts” – they are infected, but since it’s not their flu virus, they don’t produce enough virus to pass it along to others. 

Dr. Scott Weese

Reference: COVID-19: What we don’t know (but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something)

To learn more about COVID-19 and dogs specifically, read COVID-19 and My Dog: Can My Dog Get It and Could They Infect Me?

In closing

Some viruses are zoonotic and can infect multiple species, while others are specific to a species. Dog and humans haven’t shared the same coronavirus infections. To date, there is no evidence the COVID-19 is an exception.

Related articles:
COVID-19 and My Dog: Can My Dog Get It and Could They Infect Me?

Further reading:
Canine Coronavirus Disease
COVID-19 & Your Pet – What You Need to Know!


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

Categories: CoronavirusCOVID-19Dog health advocacyInfectionsSARS-CoV-2

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

9 Comments
  1. I read that some people in other countries were abandoning their pets because of the fear of COVID-19. I hope that more people get the message that pets don’t carry COVID-19.

  2. It’s good to know, with all the worry out there with this global pandemic, we don’t need to worry too much about our furbabies catching this thing.

  3. Marjorie Dawson

    What a great and helpful post. When this blew up I read people were taking their pets to be killed as they assumed they had this virus. I can’t believe it. People did not do any research, or speak to a vet or anything. Unbelievable.

    There is so much misinformation from fools online that I am avoiding social media and refer only to my local vet and local notices. People need balanced and informed posts like yours to ensure they have a good idea of what might happen to their dogs. I will be glad when this is over and people can go back to being quietly stupid in their own silly ways.* sigh *

  4. At the moment all the science says no our furbabies are safe and aren’t going to catch it or spread it. But it’s always changing. Have to keep up on what the the AVMA and WHO say as things move forward. I’m glad people are taking the time to learn about it and pay attention rather than abandoning their pets like happened in China

  5. I’m glad that shelters in North America are emptying with people realizing they now have time to share with a furry family member. It is a sad case what is happening in Asia with people abandoning their pets for fear of transferring the disease to or from dogs and cats. Educational posts like yours are vital to the pet community.

  6. I did research on this and what you have said above is what my vet told me and I also shared a link last week on my blog from the SFSPCA all about it

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