Do I need to worry that my dog has coronavirus?

10/03/2020

The simple answer, is NO.
It’s understandable that many of us are feeling uneasy about the possibility of contracting coronavirus, but to turn our attention towards dogs would be entirely misguided.

To put it into perspective, there are around 750 million dogs living in the world, mostly alongside people, and of all these, just one single dog, has tested weak positive for coronavirus. This is an extremely rare and isolated case.

By Pankaj KC, Programme Director – Animals in communities

Just last month, heart-breaking images of pet dogs and cats emerged from China’s Hebei Province. The fear of catching the virus had terrified their owners, believing their pets could be carriers - they were thrown from the windows of the high-rise tower blocks. People’s fears were leading to the cruel and unnecessary loss of life.  

Thankfully, this doesn’t appear to be the common response, and people are realising this is completely unnecessary reaction to the coronavirus rumour mill.

Coronavirus is frequently being compared to the SARS outbreak of 2003 as it bears striking similarities. Just like with SARS, there were also fears that pets could spread the disease. By the end of the epidemic, just eight cats and a dog tested positive for the virus, but no animal was ever found to transmit the disease to humans. 

Now, the world is turning its attention to Hong Kong, where an elderly, 17-year-old Pomeranian dog has tested ‘weak positive’ for coronavirus. A dog of this age might typically be quite vulnerable to infections, yet it is still showing no signs of disease relating to COVID-19. Experts will be monitoring the dog and will be repeating the test in coming days.

To put it into perspective, there are around 750 million dogs living in the world, mostly alongside people, and of all these, just one single dog, has tested weak positive for coronavirus. This is an extremely rare and isolated case.

Dog hugging owner

It’s still early days, and experts are unsure how the disease interacts with other animals. There have been questions on whether the dog has actually contracted the disease, or just that the virus is being harboured in its body. Afterall, the dog was in close proximity to its owner, who does have the disease. For a dog to contract coronavirus, the disease will have had to mutate to enable it to latch on to dog cells. Right now, we don’t know for sure if this is the case, so this example tells us very little.

It’s also important to consider that the genes of dogs are very different to genes of humans.

Even if this case does show that the virus can jump to dogs, we don’t know enough at this stage about its possible transmission to other dogs, animals or even back to humans again.

Pets are great companions and they shouldn’t pay the price of our fear by being abandoned or cruelly mistreated. We’re urging people to continue to protect their pets by keeping their time outdoors to a minimum where possible, until we know more about the transmission of the coronavirus. This should also serve as an important reminder to be a responsible pet owner by microchipping, vaccinating and neutering your animals.

Our message is clear – we need to look after our pets and not panic.

There is no evidence showing that pets can be the source of infection of coronavirus. For pets belonging to a household with COVID-19 infections, we recommend pets are also placed in humane quarantined facilities.

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