March 30, 2020
As news reports of two dogs and a cat testing positive for the Coronavirus are going viral, it’s important to know the facts on if your gun dogs can actually contract and spread the virus. Here’s what you need to know.
Can Dogs Contract the Coronavirus?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) has conducted tests on 17 dogs and eight cats from households with confirmed COVID-19 human cases or people in close contact with patients. Of those tests, only two dogs tested positive.
Additionally, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) in Belgium was informed by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Liege that a cat owned by a person infected with COVID-19 had viral RNA of the virus detected in the feces and vomit of the cat which displayed digestive and respiratory clinical signs. No information was provided on if the cat was evaluated for other conditions that could have led to respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
The two dogs that tested positive, a two-year-old German shepherd and a 17-year old Pomeranian, were from separate households. Both dogs were tested using a real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) test. In the Pomeranian, the test detected a “weak positive” for the COVID-19 virus in the nasal cavity. Results from a rectal swab and fecal samples were negative.
So, what does this mean? According to Seth Bynum, DVM of On Point Reproduction clinic based in Idaho: Nothing to panic over.
“The RT PCR test can detect something as small as one strand of viral RNA or a single virus (live or dead), and that was found only inside the nose of the dog,” says Bynum. “That means the virus was just sitting in the nasal cavity just like it would on a door handle.”
The Pomeranian, nor the German shepherd, showed any signs of respiratory disease during its quarantine.
“Technically, the dogs weren’t infected,” says Bynum. “Normally a virus goes into the body of a human and hijacks our cells and makes more of itself. It was not doing that in these dogs.”
According to the AVMA, experts from the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong believe that the virus may have spread from the infected person to the Pomeranian in this particular case.
It’s important to note that two other dogs from the households of these infected pets were also put in quarantine and consistently tested negative for the virus.
In all, the virus has spread to the dogs possibly from an infected owner, however, the virus is not causing illness in the pets. Tests show that small strands of COVID-19 are sitting in the nasal or oral cavities like it would on the surface of everyday objects.
Can Pets Spread the Virus?
Despite the two dogs and cat that have tested positive for the virus, there have been no other reports of pets becoming ill. Infectious disease experts and international and domestic human health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to suggest that dogs can spread the virus to humans or other animals. According to experts, COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person.
The AVMA states that transmission of the virus primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected persons saliva or mucus droplets from a cough or sneeze. Transmission from touching a contaminated surface or object (also known as a fomite) and then touching your face is also possible.
Dog fur is considered a porous material, and since porous materials tend to absorb and trap pathogens, it is harder to contract a virus through simple touch of porous surfaces.
How to Keep Your Pet Safe
Although the evidence seems to show that it is unlikely your dog will contract Coronavirus, it’s important to take precautionary steps, says the AVMA.
If you are not ill with the virus, continue to interact with your dog as usual, but practice good hygiene. Wash your hands before and after interaction, make sure your dog is well-groomed, and regularly clean your dog’s food bowls, kennels, bedding, toys, and training gear.
Out of caution, if you have contracted Coronavirus, the AVMA recommends that you limit contact with your dog and ask family members or friends to care for your pet.
To find more information on Coronavirus and your dog, visit avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19.