Living With Dogs in a COVID 19 World

By Marilyn Wilson

On February 26 of this year a pet dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the novel virus dubbed COVID-19. That news got my attention as I envisioned thousands of dogs being abandoned or killed as worldwide fears of this microbe invasion spread as fast as the virus itself.

Let me make this clear: From all we know to date, dogs do not “catch” or infect humans with COVID-19, informally called Coronavirus!

I’ve had some dog owners tell me, “Sure they do”. “They get vaccinated for it.” There are numerous types of coronavirus. There are two forms (not at all the same as COVID-19) that can infect dogs. They cause intestinal and respiratory infection. They’ve been around for a long time, usually self resolve, and they are not zoonotic (cannot be transmitted to humans).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is a unique coronavirus that infects the human respiratory tract and is different from previously identified coronaviruses infecting humans or veterinary patients. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses consisting of multiple subgroups of viruses that are commonly found in humans as well as other mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The World Health Organization said, “While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. The virus is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.”

The dog, which is still in quarantine, never became clinically ill, and it remains unclear why this dog tested positive. The dog was living with its owners who were infected and ill with COVID-19.

According to Dr. Shelley Rankin, Professor of Microbiology, Head of Diagnostic Services, and Chief of Clinical Microbiology and Dr. Stephen Cole, Assistant Professor of Clinical Microbiology, and Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Microbiology (Bacteriology/Mycology, Immunology) from Penn Vet at the University of Pennsylvania, more research is needed.

“That dog had the virus BUT WAS NOT SICK. It is an isolated case and should not be over interpreted.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is not believed that pets play a role in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans or other animals, nor are we aware of any reports of infection or clinical disease in pets in the United States to date. One dog living in a household with infected humans in Hong Kong has been reported to have tested weak positive by PCR for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. At the time of the positive test the dog had no clinical signs. A second dog from the same household has consistently tested negative. This appears to be the first case of nonclinical human-to-pet transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If a pet owner has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the CDC recommends limiting contact with any pets as a precautionary animal health measure until there is a better understanding of the virus.

The dog recently tested negative, but out of an abundance of caution by Hong Kong health officials, is still in quarantine. World-wide there are about 200,000 recorded human cases of COVID-19. There are probably many more as not all people are tested. No other dog in this world-wide pandemic has tested positive or, more importantly, become ill from COVID-19… not in Europe, Great Britain, Iran, South Korea or the U.S. That’s about the only good thing I can say about this virus that has changed our lives so dramatically.

The internet brings us a wealth of information but there are many unreliable sites

For information on general zoonotic diseases, please visit these reputable websites.

I have been self-isolating like many others throughout the world. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. The other day I wanted an ice cream cone. As I was putting on my coat I realized I can’t drive into town to The Creamery where there are other people. A neighbor’s dog had puppies. I can’t go over to see them. So we Skyped. You can’t cuddle a puppy or smell their sweet breath through a camera. Maybe this will get easier in time but it just seemed to be getting harder in many ways.

Time to shake the blues and get outside with my dog pack. Every day I have been visiting a new park, walkway, river-walk, lake or beach with my dogs. Health officials say that it would be most unlikely to catch COVID-19 outdoors. Just distance yourself from people by about six to ten feet. Most outdoor facilities in my neck of the woods don’t officially open until Memorial Day in May and officials are lenient about allowing dogs. Walking, with my dogs … it’s good for the body and soul. And your dogs will thank you.