By now, we’ve all heard or been affected in some way by the unfortunate spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently announced the virus’s status as a global pandemic, due to the significant speed and scale of spread as well as the perceived lack of political commitment globally. The ensuing heightened caution and panic have most people concerned with their health more than ever. Even those that are not at a high risk of contraction are rightfully concerned about the health of their more vulnerable friends and family. For many, dogs are part of the family, and it’s fair to be worried about their wellbeing.
Recently images have surfaced of pet owners in China placing masks on their furry loved ones. While this may not necessarily be effective or beneficial, it does raise the question,
‘Can my dog get coronavirus? Can they spread it to other animals or humans?!’
Panic and misinformation rarely help a situation, so let’s clear up the misconceptions and set the record straight from the facts we currently know.
Can Dogs Contract Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, the truthful answer is ‘Yes’. Your dog could get coronavirus. However, it is highly unlikely, and even if they did, it would be low risk. How do we know? A Pomeranian in Hong Kong recently tested ‘weakly positive’ for coronavirus. The virus was detected using sensitive tests conducted on nose and mouth samples from the pomeranian and confirmed to be ‘low-level’. Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) concluded that it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission. While this may sound alarming, keep in mind that it is the only recorded case of the coronavirus in pets, the virus was low-level, and the dog did not show clinical signs of the disease.
Also, there is no concrete evidence that dogs or other pets like cats or birds, can get infected. According to microbiologist Shelley Rankin, mammalian pets “have many of the same types of receptors on their cells that we do. So the virus could theoretically attach to these receptors. But will it enter their cells and replicate? Probably not.” While more research is required to know for sure, it pays to take reasonable precautions.
Can Dogs, or Other Pets, Spread the Virus?
Hong Kong’s AFCD further indicated that they do “not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people.” Pleasingly, there have not been any reported human cases since that can be traced to an animal source.
Shelley Rankin, however, does urge caution if dog cases rise, “they could serve as a reservoir, we’d need to deal with them the same way we’re dealing with human cases. Like human hospitals, vet hospitals would have to be prepared for a surge in the number of cases.” As of now, this has not resulted, let’s hope it never does!
How Can Dog Owners Protect Their Pets From Coronavirus?
As of now, drastic measures are not required. Quarantining your pet without just cause may cause more harm than good. It’s also highly recommended NOT to put small face masks on your dog. There’s very likely to be no benefit to doing this, and it may actually cause them severe stress - they don’t understand what’s happening!
“Use this situation as a reminder to practice proper hygiene with your pet”
Instead, use this situation as a reminder to practice proper hygiene with your pet. Resist ‘kissing’ your pet and wash your hands thoroughly either side of interacting with them. Wash your dog regularly and wipe them down after any walks outside.
If you or another family member is diagnosed with coronavirus and needs to self-isolate, then, unfortunately, this applies to everyone around you, including your pet. You don’t want to place them at unnecessary risk, even if it is low. If possible, get your friends and family to walk them or perhaps also take them in and look after them for the period of your isolation.
Think Your Dog Has Symptoms - Can Vets Test For It?
Firstly, stay calm and don’t panic; your dog probably doesn’t have it. Next, patiently call your vet and follow their professional instructions and expert advice. Testing kits ARE available to assess dogs. However, they are in high demand globally and may not be available at your local vet yet.
Spend Quality Time With Your Pet
If you’ve been asked to work from home, quarantined or locked down due to local restrictions and don’t have any symptoms, it could be an excellent opportunity to spend quality time with your dog.
Are you looking to get some training time in with your canine pal? Dog Gear offers free shipping and same-day dispatch. Follow us on Facebook for the latest advice, updates and dog training tips!