You may have read or heard about a recent report that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the same humane coronavirus that is causing worldwide concern called COVID-19. The news reports indicated that the dog had nose and mouth testing that resulted in a “weak positive.” Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is still conducting testing on the dog that tested weak positive. At this time, dogs and cats are not considered a sources for this new virus.
Regardless, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety and uncertainty about this disease. It is important to respond to these concerns with facts. Unfortunately, this is a new virus. The facts of this particular strain are being discovered in real time. COVID-19 may be new to this world, but coronaviruses are not. This is a different strain of a virus we know a lot about. The global response to this virus has been remarkable. The ability of doctors and researchers to share information in real-time with all over the world is the best weapon against this disease. Unfortunately, this same information is reported to the public in an editorialized form by our new anchors, politicians, friends, and coworkers. Guard your emotions with facts! www.cdc.govand www.who.int are two excellent sites to obtain up-to-date facts about COVID-19.
We have received a lot of questions about COVID-19. We have sifted through and pooled our answers from expert sources. We are learning new things each day and our understanding on some things today could change as more cases are studied. For now, this is what we think/know.
WHAT ARE CORONAVIRUSES?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms, including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. They're usually spread through direct contact with an infected person.
The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface (“corona” in Latin translates to “crown”). The genus coronavirus is composed of at least three groups that cause mild to severe enteric, respiratory, or systemic disease. Other well-known coronaviruses are SARS and MERS.
ARE CORONAVIRUSES COMMON IN ANIMALS?
Coronaviruses are common in several species of domestic and wild animals, including cattle, horses, dogs, cats, ferrets, camels, bats, and others.
DID THIS CORONAVIRUS SPREAD FROM ANIMALS TO PEOPLE?
Although not common, coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. Bats can be reservoir hosts for viruses which can cross species barriers to infect humans and other domestic and wild mammals.
In the last two major coronaviruses that were transmitted to humans, transmission occurred through intermediate hosts: the masked palm civet (SARS) and dromedary camels (MERS).
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV), now known officially as COVID-19, is thought to have originated in bats and transmitted to humans through an intermediate animal host. BUT, investigations are still ongoing.
IS MY PET AT RISK FROM COVID-19? CAN MY PET INFECT ME?
The CDC says that, at present, there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats will become a source of infection of COVID-19 in other animals or humans.
In late February, Hong Kong authorities quarantined a dog after samples from the dog's nasal cavity and mouth tested "weak positive" for the virus. The dog’s owner had tested positive for COVID-19. Currently, the dog has tested positive multiple times, but is not showing signs of illness. Authorities believe it is a case of human to animal transmission but stress that it is not cause for alarm.
It's important to remember that viruses can sometimes infect a species but not cause illness in that species, nor become transmissible to others. Again, it is not believed that pets such as cats or dogs can pass COVID-19 to humans at this time.
And, as far as realistic risk factors—if, for instance, your dog is usually at home and doesn't contact other dogs or people and no one in your household has COVID-19, the odds that your pet would become infected are highly unlikely.
If you have COVID-19, you should restrict your contact with pets and other animals, just like you would with other people. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. Avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask as directed by your physician.
As a matter of everyday health, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to help avoid transmission of more common illness-causing agents, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Secondary pathogens often take advantage of a person or pet that is already immunocompromised.
This type of virus can live for a short time on surfaces and objects. This means the coronavirus could be present on the surface of a dog, even if the dog hasn’t actually contracted the virus. This was likely the case with the dog in Hong Kong.
We will continue to monitor and provide updates as we learn more.