Coronavirus in Dogs: Fact vs. Myth
Is coronavirus in dogs something you need to worry about as a pet parent? Yes and no. COVID-19 and Canine Coronavirus are two very different viruses. Read this article to learn more...
In the last few weeks, you've likely heard of COVID-19 or coronavirus. Needless to say, the lack of understanding paired with frequent misinformation has us a little on edge. Add two weeks of social distancing and it's enough to make us all a little crazy. This is why we wanted to take a moment and share some crucial information about coronavirus in dogs.
Coronavirus: What Is It?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). This new strain of coronavirus causes respiratory illness and originated in China. More importantly, this is the first time we've identified it in humans.
Coronavirus is a highly contagious, infectious disease. As you probably know, it is spreading from person to person at an extremely alarming rate. In the last few months, it has spread throughout China and hundreds of other countries, including the United States.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning it is spread between humans and animals. Most often, zoonotic diseases start in the animal kingdom and spread to humans. However, this does not mean that humans cannot spread disease to animals. For instance, studies found that SARS spread from cats to humans. Additionally, MERS originated in camels. Interesting enough, there are many strains of coronavirus that are present in animals and have not yet infected humans.
Luckily, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are monitoring the spread of coronavirus disease extremely closely and taking immediate action to slow the spread of the disease. For instance, if you haven't heard, social distancing is one of the primary ways you can slow the spread of COVID-19. What is social distancing? Simply staying home. Leading health experts recommend it. We recommend it. And your dog sure recommends it as well. Speaking of your pup, let's chat a little about coronavirus in dogs.
Coronavirus in Dogs
With the rapid spread of this disease and the global attempt at disease control, there has been a lot of information - and misinformation - going around about whether or not this outbreak will affect your pet. Luckily, the consensus seems to be, you cannot give coronavirus to your pet. It appears that this particular strain can't be given to dogs and cats. However, if you were reading the news only two weeks ago, you may have been under a different impression...
Dog Tests Positive in Hong Kong
It was only a couple of weeks ago when a dog tested positive for coronavirus, causing panic in pet owners everywhere. After the dog' owner tested positive for coronavirus, the dog was tested as well. After Hong Kong authorities found viral RNA in the dog's nose and mouth samples, the test came back as a "weak positive".
The pet was then put in quarantine and has since shown signs of recovery. We're happy to report that the dog now tests negative for a coronavirus infection. The Hong Kong authorities are still keeping the pet under quarantine as a precaution. Medical researchers and disease control believe this is an isolated case. As of now, there is no evidence to support pet owners spreading the disease to their pets. It appears to be a virus that only humans can transmit to each other.
The World Health Organization has released this statement regarding coronavirus in dogs and cats:
"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. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly."
The Hong Kong dog had very small particles of the virus present and displayed no clinical signs of disease. It's possible the particles found on the dog were from the owner and had not actually infected the pet.
Of course, dogs and cats are mammals just like we are. In fact, we share a lot of the same cell receptors. With that said, it is theoretically possible the virus could attach to your pet's cells but isn’t all that probable.
Quarantine & Your Dog
So does this all mean that if you become ill with a coronavirus infection, you can keep your dog with you? Not exactly. Health experts recommend that humans with a coronavirus infection limit contact with their pets as well as their families.
If you have the virus, health experts recommend that you limit contact with your pet, wash your hands frequently, and definitely don't allow your dog to lick your face. In fact, if possible, it is best to leave your pet with a non-quarantined member of your family or a friend. It's will also be a lot more fun for your pup!
Interestingly enough, Canine Coronavirus does exist. It goes by the name CCoV; however, it is very different than the COVID-19 infection we are fighting as humans. Canine Coronavirus is a highly infectious, intestinal infection that affects dogs. It is usually short-lived but can cause a great deal of discomfort.
Canine Coronavirus does not affect humans and it not a respiratory illness. Instead, it causes intestinal problems in dogs. Most cases of the canine virus are caused by a dog or puppy coming into contact with infected fecal matter. Dogs can also become infected with the virus by coming into contact with an infected dog or contaminated food bowls.
Many confuse Canine Coronavirus with Canine Parvovirus, a very infectious illness that spreads quickly and can be deadly to dogs. Like the Canine Coronavirus, Parvovirus causes diarrhea in dogs. With that said, Canine Parvovirus is extremely deadly, especially to unvaccinated puppies who have not received their shots yet. Similarly, Parvovirus is transmitted by coming into contact with infected fecal matter or other infected dogs.
If your pup has had diarrhea for 24 hours that hasn't cleared up and shows other symptoms like loss of appetite and lethargy, you should visit your veterinarian.
Coronavirus: Common Symptoms
At the moment, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Also, if you're able to, you should try your best to remain home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Coronavirus symptoms show up in infected people within fourteen days of exposure. Let's review some of the clinical signs and symptoms of the illness. The ones to look out for are:
This can lead to difficulty breathing and you should immediately see your doctor if this occurs.
Fever will usually follow an infection. If the fever worsens and remains high for multiple days, you should seek medical attention.
Shortness of Breath
Like SARS, coronavirus is a respiratory illness. When the cough worsens, there can be trouble breathing and even pneumonia.
Just like the regular flu, coronavirus infection can cause body aches. This is a common symptom that accompanies a fever.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
In some cases, vomiting and diarrhea can result from an infection.
Coronavirus in Dogs: Bottom Line
We are learning more every day about coronavirus infection. As of now, you can rest assured there is no evidence that coronavirus can cross over and cause infection in your canine. Regardless, it's best to use caution during this time.
Include your pet in your planning. In the event you do get sick and have to enter quarantine, make sure to have extra pet food handy. You should let a family member or a friend know of any daily needs your pet may have so they can assist. In times like this, you want to prepare as much as you can. Stay safe and healthy, pet parents!