Please note that the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving. myDoggySocial will strive to keep this article updated since its initial publication, but readers are encouraged to stay informed on news and recommendations using the WHO, CDC and local public health departments.
IMPORTANT: Your DOGS do NOT spread COVID-19 to humans and do not pass it on to other dogs. Please do not abandon your dogs.
“The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a significant a role in spreading the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.“
On July 1, 2020, A Georgia dog tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. The dog is believed to be the second dog in the country to conclusively test positive. The 6 year old dog was a mixed breed, and did not show any signs of respiratory disease or other symptoms. The dog was ill due to a sudden onset of a neurological affliction which progressed very quickly over a matter of days and out of an abundance of caution, a SARS-CoV-2 test was performed on the dog. The positive result was confirmed by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory. The dog’s sudden neurological illness was caused by another condition, and had no relation to being positive for SAR-CoV-2. A second dog in the home was also tested, but its results are still pending and that dog was not showing any symptoms of illness.
On April 22, 2020 two pet cats in New York (the first pets in the USA) were confirmed to have suffered mild respiratory illness as a result of COVID-19. Unlike dogs, which have been asymptomatic thus far in the handful of reported cases, the cats actually showed minor signs of sickness. “The felines had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
See here for more updates from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0422-covid-19-cats-NYC.html.
To date, there is no evidence that cats can spread the virus to humans.
So far, all of the animals that have been diagnosed with the virus have been expected to fully recover with no fatalities reported to date.
On April 6, 2020 several tigers at a zoo in New York were confirmed to have been infected by a COVID-19 positive human, with the first reported April 6, 2020 in the United States. Several tigers showed actual signs of respiratory illness. The first cat that tested positive was reported in Belgium on March 28, 2020. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/ny-zoo-covid-19
“The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans) in one tiger at a zoo in New York. This is the first instance of a tiger being infected with COVID-19. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of respiratory illness.
Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. The zoo has been closed to the public since mid-March, and the first tiger began showing signs of sickness on March 27. All of these large cats are expected to recover. There is no evidence that other animals in other areas of the zoo are showing symptoms.”
Can people give this virus to animals and, if so, what animals are at risk?
This was the first case of its kind. We are still learning about this new coronavirus and how it spreads. This case suggests that a zoo employee spread the virus to the tiger. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19. State animal and public health officials will continue to work closely with USDA and CDC to monitor this situation and will conduct additional testing if it is warranted.”
The latest report appears to be “yes”, dogs can be infected by COVID-19 novel coronavirus positive humans. However, so far it has been an extremely small number of dogs, and they were asymptomatic and did not show signs of sickness, as described below.
OIE: The predominant route of transmission of COVID-19 is from human to human. Several dogs and cats (domestic cats and a tiger) have tested positive to COVID-19 virus following close contact with infected humans. Further information reported to the OIE can be found below in the ‘more information’ section. Preliminary findings from laboratory studies suggest that, of the animal species investigated so far, cats are the most susceptible species for COVID-19, and cats can be affected with clinical disease. https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/
The CDC has confirmed that a small number of pets outside the United States have been reported infected with COVID-19 after close contact with people: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html
Publications in Hong Kong are stating that antibodies for the virus were found in the 17 year old Pomeranian’s blood, proving infection. See here: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3077177/coronavirus-final-testing-hong-kong-dogs-blood
Hong Kong officials say they will continue quarantining pets of confirmed COVID-19 cases, although no evidence has been presented that they play a role in spreading the virus.
“Despite the conclusive positive reading, an Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) spokesman stressed that cases of infection in dogs appeared “infrequent”, with most of the city’s quarantined animals testing negative.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 novel coronavirus as a global pandemic in March 2020.
Can dogs get coronavirus?
Much of the panic started due to two reports dogs in Hong Kong reported as having COVID-19 – they both tested “weakly positive”, the first being a 17 year old Pomeranian named Benny, and the latest being a 2 year old German Shepherd showing no signs of being ill. Both were known to have close contacts with confirmed COVID-19 patients (their owners). Neither showed any symptoms. A Bronx Zoo tiger also tested positive for COVID-19, which means that animals definitely can get the virus. The sick tiger has fueled concerns and fears over whether people sick with the virus, that has sickened more than 1.5 million people and killed almost 100,000 people globally thus far, could pass the sickness on to their beloved pets or whether humans could catch the virus from them. It is worth noting that viruses can sometimes contaminate or even infect a species but not cause sickness in them.
To date, there is not one reported case in the USA of dogs getting the current COVID-19 novel coronavirus. However, the 4 year old tiger that tested positive is in the United States. A cat in Belgium has also tested positive for the virus.
Many people were initially worried and panicking over the spread of the virus, even going to the extreme lengths of dumping their dogs. Others put masks on their dogs in an effort to ensure that they don’t get or spread the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, this trend soon changed and shelters across the nation reported being empty for the first time in years as pet adoptions surged and shelters were cleared out in some areas, such as the Riverside County Animal Shelter in California, the Friends of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, Chicago Animal Control, Human Rescue Alliance in Washington, and others. There are still many animals up for adoption, but the fact that so many have been cleared for the first time in years is something to celebrate. Hopefully, once the quarantines are lifted, these adopted animals are not thrown back into shelters due to lack of time or care as people resume their normal activities for work, school and life.
In April, a WHO epidemiologist announced that the agency was working with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health to look more in depth into COVID-19 in pets. See the press conference summary here.
When dogs are infected, it does not mean they have the disease or they are sick – Professor Malik Peiris, HKU virologist
COVID-19 spread generally: The first infections to humans were linked to a live animal market in China, when there were reports of it spreading from person to person. It is still being investigated by scientists. Theories abound and some studies suggest that the COVID-19 virus may have been in humans for years. Other researchers have reconstructed the early evolutionary paths to determine the spread through various mutations of the virus into different viral lineages. Three variants of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus have been identified thus far. Most New York coronavirus COVID-19 cases apparently seem to have come from Europe. When the virus jumps from species to species, it has mutated to do so, leading to each variant (potentially 3 – 30) of the original coronavirus strain.
Why are quarantines imposed on people and animals? Viruses mutate all the time, at varying speeds. Quarantine helps stop the spread of the virus and subsequent mutations as well. The Spanish Flu was an influenza pandemic in 1918 with a horrific scale of casualties, continued by a mutated second wave of influenza: https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-second-wave-resurgence. Quarantines are generally imposed on sick or infected people and animals. The novel COVID19 coronavirus is an unusual time in history where healthy people and animals are being told to “shelter-in-place” in order to stop the spread of the virus while scientists, doctors, and researchers learn more about it, its health impacts, severity and mortality rate. There are many who question the validity of the mandatory quarantines that are being imposed.
What we do know for sure at the moment is the following:
- There have been no reports to date of a dog transmitting the COVID-19 coronavirus to a person.
- COVID-19 positive humans can contaminate dogs with the COVID-19 virus
- Dogs that were determined to be COVID-19 weakly positive did not show signs of sickness
Based on lab experiments, cats and ferrets are at a higher risk of infection. Cats can also spread the COVID-19 virus to other cats. However, researchers in China believe that dogs are not as susceptible to the infection. Additionally, dogs are poor hosts for the virus and currently are unlikely to produce high enough levels after infection to spread it to others. Scientists also concluded that chickens, pigs and ducks are not likely to catch the virus. There have not been any cases of cats transmitting the virus to humans.
Infection versus Contamination
When a dog is contaminated, that means that the virus has entered the dog’s body. For example, there’s some virus in the house and the dog licks the virus, leading to the virus staying on the dog’s tongue.
When a dog is infected, it means the virus has entered the dog’s body and proceeded to multiply and replicate. This does not necessarily result in symptoms or sickness, similar to asymptomatic humans who are carrying the virus but otherwise appear healthy. Being infected does not necessarily result in the fevers, colds, or pneumonia.
Neither of the two dog cases in Hong Kong showed signs of disease caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, the Pomeranian died shortly after being released from quarantine. Medical sources initially believed he had died from old age and underlying illnesses. A later opinion by veterinary experts and scientists from Hong Kong, after final testing resulted in a positive blood test for antibodies for the COVID-19 virus, was that the Pomeranian had developed an immune response to the viral infection. (Interested in learning more about immune responses and infections? Click here.) An immune response indicates that the dog was actually infected, rather than simply contaminated by the virus. Whether Benny died from old age, another underlying disease, or COVID-19 is yet to be officially reported – we’ll update here as information comes in. Feel free to provide your comments!
If I get COVID-19, can I give it to my dog?
Animal to human transmission of coronaviruses generally: Coronaviruses are common in several species of animals, which includes dogs, cats, ferrets, camels, cattle, horses, bats, etc. Some coronaviruses CAN be transmitted from animals to humans – in the past, SARS and MERS were transmitted from the masked palm civet (SARS) and dromedary camels (MERS) to humans.
Human to dog transmission of COVID-19 in North America: However, to date, the current novel coronavirus COVID-19 strain has not been documented as being transmitted from humans to their dogs in North America.
Dog cases of COVID-19: At least two dogs in Hong Kong have been determined to have been contaminated with the virus due to close contact with their COVID-19 positive owners. At least one of those dogs in Hong Kong, the 17 year old Pomeranian, has now been determined to have been infected due to the presence of antibodies in its blood from the latest test results.
If you are sick with COVID-19, limit contact with your pets, wash your hands before handling them and proceed as carefully as you can. The CDC recommends having another non-infected person in the household handle a pet’s daily care if there is a member in the household who has tested positive for the virus.
There is still a lot that is unknown about the virus and new data is coming in daily. Fortunately, it appears that dogs are at a very low risk of becoming sick with the virus, despite being able to be infected.
Can my dog give me COVID-19?
Keep your dogs safe. Do not abandon them. To date, it has been determined that dogs cannot transmit the virus to humans.
What are antibody tests about?
The antibody test can determine if a person or animal was previously infected and recovered. A molecular test shows whether they were infected with the virus at the time the test was taken.
Antibodies are a body’s way of remembering how it responded to an infection. This way, when the body is exposed to the same pathogen, it remembers how to attack it. When a person or animal has antibodies in their blood, it means that they have immune cells available to fight the virus. This lowers the risk of that same body being re-infected by the same pathogen again.
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