Is there any risk for dogs to get infected with COVID-19?

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.

Hong Kong dog causes panic – but here's why you needn't worry ...
Figure 2. A dog wearing a face mask

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 coronaviruses 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 diagnosed 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.

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.

Can dogs be a source of the infection?

Figure 2. A picture describing the inexplicable panic over the spread of COVID-19 by dogs

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 its 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 materials 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?

No, definitely not. Physical activity is very important for the dogs and their owners. But before going out for a walk with the dog, everyone should check the local regulations. If the walk area is safe enough and dog owners are healthy, then they can go outside. Pet owners should strictly follow the instructions for social distancing and wear a face mask. They should also wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after a walk and carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer during the walk. Avoiding crowded areas will help you to not be exposed to the virus. Do not let your dogs to get in contact with other people.

Do we need to do anything to protect our dog from COVID-19?

For now, healthy pet owners in the US should simply follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal. If the pet owner is infected with COVID-19 or has been exposed to the novel coronavirus, the specialists recommend to reduce the contact with the pet and do not touch their fur. COVID-19 positive patients should also wear a mask during interactions with their dogs and cats and wipe their paws after they come in and out of the house with a paw cleaner and paw wipes.

Dogs do not need to wear face mask to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus COVID-19. If you have any doubts that your dog has been exposed to the virus or you noticed any changes in dog’s health, you should contact a veterinarian. The most important protection still remains that pet owners should not abandon their pets -dog and cats under any circumstances because of the panic with COVID-19 outbreak.