Can Dogs Get Coronavirus (COVID-19)? What We Know So Far (April 3, 2020)

Can Dogs Get Coronavirus COVID-19
Our furbabies are part of our family, and we worry about them. We wonder if we’re feeding them the right food and giving them enough attention. We’re anxious if we think they’re in pain, and we hope they have a good life. I get it. I feel concern whenever my older pooch seems the least bit out of sorts.
In the midst of all the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, what about our pups? Can dogs get Coronavirus?

Can Dogs Catch COVID-19?

According to the CDC and USDA, pets seem to be unlikely to get the disease or pass it on. But that’s not 100% certain…

There have been two pooches in Hong Kong that showed positive results.

  • The first pup had a very weakly positive result for COVID-19. After the owner contracted the disease, officials tested the Pomeranian, which was asymptomatic. Low levels of virus were detected on swabs from the animal’s nasal passages and mouth.  However, follow-up serology was negative for blood antibody levels. It is possible that the dog picked up the organisms by breathing the owner’s infected respiratory droplets.
  • More recently, a German Shepherd in the Pok Fu Lam area of Hong Kong tested positive. This pooch and another mixed-breed from the same household were placed under quarantine after their owner contracted the novel coronavirus. Results from the canines came back on March 19. The mutt was negative, and neither animal was showing any symptoms of illness.
  • There are conflicting reports that either a third dog or a cat have tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong as of March 30, 2020. Both sources report the pet was screened because its owner has the virus, but the animal is asymptomatic.

In addition to dogs, it appears cats may be able to pick up the virus. A cat in Liège, Belgium showed symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing a week after the owner contracted the virus. The cat tested positive for COVID-19. Veterinary officials continue to believe that the disease can not be spread from pets to their humans. However, there are questions as to whether we should be testing furbabies if their owners become infected.

What Does This Mean? Can We Pass Coronavirus to Our Dogs?

While it’s pretty unlikely that we can pass the virus to our pups, that one positive result leaves some doubt. So what do we need to know about the virus?
According to The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), “There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick.” While the dog may have picked up the virus from its infected owner, pet owners that contract COVID-19 shouldn’t abandon their furbabies or panic unnecessarily.

What Does Coronavirus Infection Look Like in a Dog?

COVID-19 is a novel form of a class of viruses called Coronaviruses. Even though this new micro-organism doesn’t appear to affect dogs, a few of the other varieties of this microbe can.

Canine Coronavirus

Enteric Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) is an infectious disease that affects the digestive system in dogs. Pups pick up the infection when they eat infected feces or come in direct contact with sick animals. Signs of illness can be mild but may include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sudden onset of diarrhea/loose stools that have a fetid odor
  •  Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
Symptoms show up 1-4 days after ingesting the virus and they usually last 2-10 days unless there’s a secondary infection.

Canine Respiratory Coronavirus

Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRCoV) is similar to kennel cough in pooches or the common cold that people can get. This form of coronavirus is very contagious for dogs. It’s transmitted by direct contact with sick animals, aerosol droplets, and contact with contaminated surfaces. Infections can range from subclinical carriers to severe disease. Symptoms may include:
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Pneumonia – usually due to co-infection with other pathogens
Incubation for CRCoV is thought to be a few days, and signs can last 1-2 weeks.

What Can I Do to Protect My Dog From Coronavirus Right Now?

What Can I Do to Protect My Dog From Coronavirus Right Now?
Again, just in case we learn that dogs can get this novel coronavirus, be proactive. Take similar measures for Fido as yourself. If you’re in a community that has active infections:
  • Avoid taking your pooch to gatherings with large crowds
  • Keep your furbaby away from any infected individuals
  • Practice good hygiene at home (more below)
  • Have a pet preparedness plan in place (more below)

Can Our Dogs Pass Coronavirus to Us?

You may be wondering if it’s possible for dogs to bring the virus to us. The available evidence suggests that the novel virus started from an animal source, possibly bats. However, since its inception, it has spread by human to human transmission.
OIE stresses that there is currently no evidence that pets act as a vector to spread the disease. That’s good news because it means there’s no need to take drastic actions that could endanger your four-footed pal.

Can Dogs Carry the Virus on Their Fur?

A study published on March 17 revealed that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces like plastic, cardboard, and metal for hours to days. What about dog fur? Maybe. We just don’t know yet. Fortunately, pet hair is porous and more likely to trap the pathogen than spread it.

Is It Safe to Pet My Dog/How Can I Pet My Dog During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

If you’re not infected with the virus, the AVMA advises that you don’t need to change the way you interact with your pup. As for other owner’s dogs…if they appear healthy, don’t sweat petting their pooch. Just make sure you keep a distance with Fido’s human. In all cases, practice good hygiene by washing your hands after contact.

No Need to Panic

OIE stresses that there is currently no evidence that pets act as a vector to spread the disease. That’s good news because it means there’s no need to take drastic actions that could endanger your four-footed pal.

Should I Change My Behavior With My Dog Because of COVID-19?

If you’re already practicing good hygiene with your pooch, you may not need to change your behavior. Remember, even though it’s unlikely you could get this novel virus from your dog, there are other diseases that pass between canines and humans. Your routine should include:
  • Wash Fido’s bedding regularly
  • Wash your hands after feeding, playing with, or cleaning up after your pooch
  • Store dry foods in an airtight container and refrigerate wet foods
  • Wash food and water bowls regularly
  • Wash toys and replace them when they become damaged
  • Keep outdoor areas clean by picking up feces frequently

What Should I Do Differently With My Dog if I Have Coronavirus?

Because we can’t be 100% certain that you can’t pass the virus to your furry friend, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
  • If possible, plan for someone else to care for your special pal while you’re recovering.
  • If you have no one to take your furbaby, wash hands before and after contact with Fido, and wear a facemask to keep your droplets to yourself.
  • Avoid direct contact with pets – sadly that means no petting, snuggles, kisses, or sharing of food.
  •  Have a pet preparedness plan in place (see below).

Is It Okay to Take My Dog for Walks?

As long as you’re not infected or under self-quarantine out of caution, walks are good for both of you. Fresh air and exercise help boost our immunity and mental health. Remember to keep a safe distance from other people and dogs to avoid any risk of transmission.

Is It Okay to Let My Dog Socialize With Other Dogs?

According to the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, there’s currently no evidence that dogs can become infected with the virus. That being said, the Pomeranian from China that had a positive test result died of unknown causes on March 16. Even though it’s unlikely that COVID-19 caused the pooch’s death, practice caution. It’s best to minimize contact with other pups and avoid large groups of dogs just in case.

Will I Need to Quarantine My Dog?

If you become infected, the best practice would be to distance yourself from your dog to make sure you won’t pass anything on to him. Under these circumstances, your pooch will probably not need to be quarantined.
In the unlikely event that your pup becomes infected with COVID-19, quarantine is advised. Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia recommends treating infected animals like their human counterparts. Dogs showing signs of illness should be isolated at a veterinary hospital for treatment. For pups that test positive but show no symptoms:
  • Keep them at home in a separate room from other animals and people
  • Wash hands before and after handling or feeding them
  • Consider wearing a facemask when you enter their room.

Pet Preparedness Plan in Case of Emergency

Pet Preparedness Plan in Case of Emergency
Like having supplies and the know-how for basic first aid for pets, owners should have a preparedness plan in place to deal with emergencies such as becoming infected with Coronavirus. Details of your plan to provide proper care for furbaby in extreme circumstances should include:
  • Have a first-aid kit for dogs stocked and ready for emergencies and review basic first aid for pets regularly
  • Have an adequate supply of food, medicines, and other products that you need to care for your pooch.
  • Line up a trusted friend or family member who can look after your furbaby if you’re incapacitated.
  • Have food, other supplies, and crates on hand in case you need to move your pup quickly.
  • Keep your special pal up-to-date on all vaccinations required by your boarding facility.
  • Prepare a document detailing all medications, dosing instructions, and prescription information.
  • Make sure your pet has current identification including an ID tag for the collar and a microchip.

In the News: Dogs and Coronavirus Across the Globe

Pups May Join Frontlines in Battle Against Coronavirus

Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are working with the charity Medical Detection Dogs to see if trained pooches can detect COVID-19. Some pooches from this charitable organization already help to detect cancer, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease in patients. If trials prove successful, pups could help identify potential carriers of the virus in public spaces and airports.

New Zealand Includes Canines in Social Distancing

In an effort to mitigate the risk of passing coronavirus through the vector of pet hair, New Zealand is requiring pets to stay in the “family bubble”. Owners can still walk their pooches, but they need to prevent contact with anyone outside of the household. 

Fallout in China

Early misinformation about the role pets played in spreading the novel coronavirus led some dog owners in China to abandon or euthanize their furry friends. In some cities, volunteer-based shelters are overwhelmed with new animals, and stray pets roam the streets.
In response, OIE, CDC, and other health organizations have been stressing that there’s no reason to suspect companion animals can spread the disease. Still, many dog owners in the nation are investing in pet masks to protect their canines from the virus.

Canine Quarantine in Italy?

As the nation of Italy locks down on Coronavirus, people wonder if the restrictions apply to their pups. The government’s mandate to restrict all unnecessary movements leaves some people asking if they can take their furbaby for a walk. According to Italian civil protection chief, Angelo Borrelli, “Surely, taking your dog out to do his business is a valid motivation.”

Canine Coronavirus in Australia

Unrelated to the pandemic, Authorities in Australia are dealing with an outbreak of CCoV in the greyhound industry. To help prevent further spread, the following sighthounds will be placed in isolation:
  • Any new animals entering the country
  • Any greyhounds showing signs of disease
  • Any greyhounds that contact infected animals

Stay Tuned...

The information above is based on what we currently understand about COVID-19 and our dogs. We’ll update the article if new details regarding the virus come to light. 

Photo credit: PeSandy / amazon.com/PeSandy-Adjustable-Respirator-Breathable-Protective/dp/B07ZL1N9TP/
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