Recently, a dog in China tested positive for the COVID-19 Coronavirus, causing a great deal of concern among pet owners around the globe. Thankfully, pet owners can breathe a sigh of relief as news headlines surrounding this infected canine are largely sensationalized, and there is little to worry about.
The more we know about how COVID-19 interacts with both animals and people, the better we can help mitigate the spread of this infectious virus. Let’s dive right into it.
What is the Coronavirus?
Known as COVID-19, this strain of influenza is suspected to have originated from animals in a meat market in China. Much like the SARS outbreak in 2003, experts believe both SARS and COVID-19 began in bats.
COVID-19 has been rapidly spreading throughout the globe, with more than 111,000 confirmed cases, spanning dozens of countries. Thankfully, the coronavirus can be relatively easy to contain using simple yet stringent cleaning practices.
There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Grey-Bruce area, however Ontario has 34 confirmed cases, with numbers expected to increase. Aside from the initial canine testing positive for COVID-19 in China, there have been no reports of additional dogs being infected with the virus.
Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
Experts around the globe, including those from the World Health Organization (WHO) all agree on one thing: dogs cannot become sick from coronavirus. So why did this initial canine test positive?
The COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces for an undetermined period of time before dying off. In this case, that includes the inside of a dog's nasal cavity, which happens to be the area that was originally tested. Test results came back with a very weak positive, meaning the virus was likely already dying off. To be clear, the dog itself was not directly infected with COVID-19, but likely came into contact with the virus, which was detected as present on the dog. Additionally, the dog did not display any symptoms of illness, further supporting the theory that it was not actually infected.
Still, pet owners are being thrown into a panic due to fear that their beloved pet can become infected. This has led to a rise in pet owners fitting their pets with respiratory masks, especially in parts of China, in an attempt to avoid infection. Experts commented to say putting masks on pets does nothing to protect them from infection, and only causes unnecessary stress for the pet.
There is a common belief amongst the pet-owning population that many viral illnesses can be easily transmitted between animals and humans (known as zoonosis), especially if originating in animals initially. Thankfully, science has proven this to be largely untrue. While some viruses can most definitely be spread cross-species, they’re few and far between. Examples of zoonotic diseases include anthrax, bird flu, cat scratch fever, and bovine tuberculosis.
It is more important now than ever to do everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the United States Surgeon General, prevention begins with basic hygiene, including washing hands thoroughly and often, cleaning surfaces regularly, staying away from those who are sick, and getting the flu shot.
If your pet comes in close contact with anyone displaying symptoms of illness, please ask them to refrain from touching your pet. Pets are no more of a risk of spreading COVID-19 than inanimate objects like door handles, for example, however there is still a small risk of them spreading the virus to others. The World Health Organization advises people to wash their hands after touching pets, and those who are particularly concerned may wipe their dog’s paws with antiseptic wipes after being outdoors. Be careful not to overdo it though, as too much wiping may irritate a dog’s sensitive paws.
While pets are not susceptible to illness due to COVID-19 coronavirus, they can certainly be carriers, leading to the spread of human infection.
To be safe, it is wise to call your veterinarian if your pet displays any symptoms of illness, including nasal discharge, unusual vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy, heavy panting, and other unusual symptoms.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years' experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.