For the most up to date information about COVID-19 and pets, please check the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Fact Sheet.
Coronavirus has been all over the news in recent weeks. The CDC warns you to protect yourself against COVID-19. Wash your hands, don't touch your face, cough into your elbow. But recent reports have mentioned finding the disease in canines too. Do you need to protect your dog too?
Dogs can't take the same precautions we can. Is your furry friend in danger of getting coronavirus? Are you in danger of getting it from him? Short answer: It's unlikely. Let's look at why.
A False Alarm
On February 28th, a dog in Hong Kong was reported to have tested "weakly positive" for the coronavirus and was subsequently being kept in quarantine. This led to panic in a lot of people, but doctors say the fear is unfounded. Even though the dog tested positive for the disease, that doesn't mean he was infected with it. Furthermore, he didn't show any coronavirus symptoms.
So, what happened? Doctors say that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for a short period of time, even if they don't infect the host. The test for the disease involves a swab of the inside of the mouth and nose. Because of this, the virus can be present on pets in those areas, without them actually contracting the disease. The World Health Organization says there is currently no evidence that dogs or other pets can be infected with COVID-19.
Can Your Dog Give You Coronavirus?
Even if your canine companion can't contract the disease himself, if it's possible for dogs to test positive, does that mean he can spread the disease to you? Again, unlikely. The positive result was a very weak one, and it was the only instance that's been found so far of this strain of coronavirus in pets. Scientists say there's very little chance of your dog actually passing the disease on. Quarantining him is probably not necessary.
Of course, the type of coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 isn't the only strain of the disease. Could your dog contract a different type of coronavirus? It's possible, but you still shouldn't worry. The canine version is far less serious, and while it can cause some abdominal pain, it typically lasts only a few days.
It's important to note that the human symptoms of coughing and breathing difficulty don't carry over to the canine coronavirus. The disease is most common in puppies, and the main symptom is diarrhea. Most importantly, just as COVID-19 can't be transmitted to dogs, the canine coronavirus can't be transmitted to humans.
Protecting Yourself Against Coronavirus
If you're worried about the spread of coronavirus, there are precautions you can take with regards to your canine companion. Don't be afraid to pet your dog, but wash your hands with soap and water afterwards, to kill any bacteria. You can also clean your dog's paws with pet-safe antibacterial wipes when he comes in from outside. Don't overdo it, though. Wiping too much or too often can make his paws dry and cause discomfort.
Some pet parents in China have been seen putting face masks on their furry friends. Don't do this. Not only will this not help protect against coronavirus, it can cause him serious distress.
Concern for your dog's health is important, but when it comes to COVID-19, it's unlikely that you have anything to worry about. If you're worried that you've been exposed, talk to your doctor and your vet. However, as long as you're following the recommended precautions, chances are, you'll both be fine. We don’t know everything there is to know about this new virus yet, but we do know that being a pet parent extends your life.