Can My Dog Get COVID-19?

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A brown dog wearing a green mask
Dr. Erica Irish author of Can My Dog Get COVID-19?

Even with the widespread information available regarding the coronavirus known as COVID-19, there are still many questions. Unfortunately, it will take time to find out some of these answers, and the information that we think that we know could change as time passes. One such example pertains to how COVID-19 can impact our pets, so does this mean that your dog is at risk?   


What is COVID-19?

The Coronavirus Disease of 2019, also known as COVID-19, is a type of coronavirus that is transmitted from person to person through direct contact or by contacting viral particles on inanimate objects. Coughing can cause viral particles to become airborne, and they can live on certain surfaces for up to 72 hours.

This particular virus is so highly contagious and spread to other countries so quickly that it is considered a pandemic on a scale similar to that of the 1918 Influenza pandemic1.

Thanks to genome sequencing, scientists have determined that the virus originated from a species of bat known as the horseshoe bat2. Various factors can cause viruses to mutate, and when COVID-19 mutated, it spread to a different species.

Scientists still aren’t sure who this second species is but suspect it was a pangolin or possibly a fish, but when the virus mutated once more, it became capable of infecting humans. A similar viral mutation occurred in 2009 when more than 50 countries had cases of Swine flu.

People who are infected with COVID-19 can remain asymptomatic for several days before they start to show signs. These signs are primarily respiratory so COVID-19 patients might think that they have the flu or a common cold at first.

Many people who have been infected have recovered, but COVID-19 has been shown to cause respiratory failure in even the healthiest of patients, and it is capable of affecting people of all ages1.


Can dogs get COVID-19?

COVID-19 is just one kind of coronavirus. Before COVID-19, most veterinarians thought of coronavirus in dogs as the canine coronavirus or CCoV. This particular variation causes short-lived diarrhea that can be mild in adults but moderate to severe in puppies, and it can mimic another severe gastrointestinal illness known as parvovirus. CCoV is highly contagious and is spread through contact with fecal matter.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, experts were not sure that dogs could contract COVID-19, but they cautioned that people who are sick with any respiratory signs should maintain distance from other people and from animals. After all, one viral mutation caused COVID-19 to be able to jump from an animal to a person, so does this mean that the opposite is possible?

As of the publication of this article, there is no evidence to suggest that dogs play a major role in the spread of COVID-19. However, there have been a few cases where dogs have tested positive for it, and they usually come from homes where their owners or family members were infected.

One example is a Pug named Winston from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His owners were infected with COVID-19, then one day, Winston had mild clinical signs like sneezing, lethargy, and skipping a meal. After a few days, he recovered, and he is considered the first dog to test positive for COVID-19. None of the other pets in the household were affected.

Cases of dogs testing positive for COVID-19 are still very rare, but if you are infected, you should avoid contact with family members, including your canine companions! If you suspect that your dog has a respiratory illness, contact your veterinarian right away.

Be sure to let your vet’s office know if you have been infected or if your dog has come into contact with someone who was infected. Your vet might contact the State Veterinarian for further advice on how to test and treat your pup.


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Can other pets get COVID-19?

Dogs aren’t the only species to be affected! There are a couple of cases that have been documented in New York City, and at the Bronx Zoo, some of their tigers have become infected. Scientists theorize that one of the zookeepers who was infected with COVID-19 passed it on to the tigers, who ended up with clinical signs associated with respiratory illnesses. This is the first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States1.


How to protect your pets from COVID-19

If you’re practicing social distancing, your pets should be doing the same. Staying home and away from others is ideal; however, walking through your neighborhood should be fine as long as there is enough space between you and others. Avoid crowded places like dog parks and doggie daycares.

If you know someone who is displaying flu-like signs, it is best to avoid contact with them. Sick family members should quarantine themselves to one room in the house to avoid spreading illness to others, and this also means that pets should keep away. If you start showing signs, have other family members care for your pet or consider having your pet stay with someone else for a while, and if your pet starts showing signs, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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While COVID-19 remains a serious public health concern, our pets are still considered to be at low risk for contracting it. However, this does not mean that it is not possible, and there have been a few cases of dogs, cats, even tigers who have tested positive!

By continuing to practice social distancing and other safety precautions, you will minimize the risk of infection to you and your pets. Not only that, but you will also help to greatly diminish the risk of spreading it to others. If you suspect that your pet is showing signs of respiratory illness, talk to your veterinarian about whether testing for COVID-19 will be necessary.


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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine



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