World Health Organization (WHO) announced SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) as a global pandemic in the beginning of March, 2020. The panic observed with the coronavirus spread also affected the pet owners and they are worried not only for their health but also for the health of their cats and dogs. If you check in the social media, you can find many pictures of dogs with face masks and this focused the attention on the main question if pets could get ill from COVID-19.
What are the risks for dogs?
Canines can be infected and show symptoms of several coronavirus species, for example: canine respiratory coronavirus. However, these types are different from the novel coronavirus SARS-COV-2. Due to this, specialists concluded that there is no threat for dogs to get infected with COVID-19. Hong Kong scientists reported for 2 pet dogs that showed positive results for the novel coronavirus because their owners are determined as positive. The theory observed with this case is the possibility for the virus to be transmitted from human to animal. Dogs haven’t showed any symptoms for illness.
Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, but this specific novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is believed to not be a health threat to dogs. Two pet dogs in Hong Kong have tested positive for COVID-19, and both of these dogs lived in homes with COVID-19 positive owners. Local health officials characterize the cases of the two dogs in Hong Kong as “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission,” and neither dog showed any signs of illness from the virus.
Hong Kong health institutions continue the testing of cats and dogs who live with SARS-COV-2 positive patients. Until March 25th, only 2 dogs from 17 tested dogs and 8 cats have been reported to be positive for COVID-19. Based on these results, Hong Kong authorities declared that dogs and cats cannot be easily infected by this virus and do not play any role in the spread of the infection.
What is the case with the other pets?
One cat in Belgium and one cat in Hong Kong were also tested as positive for COVID-19. Both cats live in homes with novel coronavirus positive patients.
The first case for COVID-19 infected animal in US has been reported by the veterinarians at New York’s Bronx Zoo. Several tigers and lions there have symptoms as wheezing, lack of appetite and, most significantly – dry cough. The specialists assumed that all animals have been infected by a local employee with symptoms for COVID-19. However, Dr. Rooney from USDA reported that there are no cases that prove for sure that the virus can be transmitted from infected animals to other people. Besides, animals cannot be treated as a source of the infection in US. whoe All of the animals at the zoo are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who showed signs of COVID-19. In China, scientists performed an experimental infection of domestic cats, dogs and ferrets but the obtained results cannot be accepted as valid for all world regions.
Can dogs be a source of the infection?
The WHO officially declared that there is no evidence that cat, dog or any other pet can spread the infection. The virus can be transmitted through droplets if an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks closely with other person. The infection can be avoided if people wash their hands frequently, use hand disinfectants and follow the recommendations for a social distance. Covering your face with a face mask, napkin or any cloth would reduce the possibility to get infected.
CDC recommends pet owners diagnosed with COVID-19 to ask another person from the household to take care of the pet if there is such option.
Can the novel coronavirus be transmitted from dog’s fur to his owner?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is a low risk for transmission of SARS-COV-2 from dog to his owner through touching the dog’s fur. It is reported that the virus can survive outside the host on smooth surfaces – for example: countertops and doorknobs. Porous material such as dog’s fur can absorb the viral particles and make harder the contact between the person and the dog by touching dog’s fur.
Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, stated that there aren’t any cases of people infected with COVID-19 by their pets.It is recommended to follow the normal hygiene practices such as washing our hands every time after touching the pet’s fur.
Should we stop the dog walks because of the social isolation?
Physical and mental exercise are extremely important for dogs and dog owners alike. Before taking a walk, check your local regulations. As long as the area where you reside remains safe enough to venture outside, dog owners feeling healthy and well should plan to continue walking their dogs daily, albeit with added safety measures like maintaining social distancing and covering your face with a mask. Observe any local ordinances concerning curfews, even if that means adjusting your dog walking schedule.
Owners should wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after each walk. Consider carrying around a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer during your walks. Practice social distancing measures by walking your dog in uncrowded areas when possible. If you live in a big city, make efforts to take your dog down less-heavily-trafficked blocks, or try adjusting walks to less busy times of day and night. Prevent your dog from associating with other people out of an abundance of caution.
How can dog owners protect dogs from coronavirus?
For now, healthy pet owners in the U.S. don’t need to do anything other than follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal, including dogs and cats. If you test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, experts recommend that you should “restrict contact with [your] animals — both to avoid exposing the pets and to prevent getting the virus on their skin or fur, which might be passed on to another person who touches the animal.”
Wearing a mask while interacting with your dog or other pets can reduce the possibility of spreading the virus through droplets. To reduce the spread of all germs, you may also consider wiping your pet’s paws when they come in and out of the house with a paw cleaner and paw wipes.
Dogs do not need a face mask to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. If you are still concerned or notice a change in your dog’s health, speak to a veterinarian. And the most important protection of all: Under no circumstances should owners abandon their dogs, cats, or other pets because of COVID-19 fears.