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Coronavirus in Dogs: Fact vs. Myth

Coronavirus in Dogs

Coronavirus in Dogs: Fact vs. Myth

Is coronavirus in dogs something you should be worried about as a pet owner? Yes and no. COVID-19 and Canine Coronavirus, not the same at all. They are two very different viruses. Read this article to learn more.

coronavirus dog mask

The lack of understanding of the COVID-19 or coronavirus paired with frequent misinformation can leave us somewhat confused. Add social distancing and it's enough to make us all a little crazy. I want to share some crucial information about dogs and coronavirus.


Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Is It?

Coronaviruses are members in a family of viruses that include Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). This strain of coronavirus was recently found and is known to cause respiratory illness. This strain of coronavirus originated in China. When discovered, it was the first time we've identified this virus in humans.

Coronavirus is a highly contagious, infectious disease. As you probably already know, it is spreading between people at an extremely high rate. It spread very quickly throughout China and many other countries, including the United States.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning it spreads between animals and humans. Most often, zoonotic diseases start in animals and then spread to people. However, this does not mean that people cannot spread the disease to animals. For instance, studies found that SARS spread from cats to people. Interesting enough, many strains of this coronavirus were found present in animals and have not yet infected people.

Luckily for us, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are monitoring the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease very carefully and they are taking immediate action to try and slow the spread of the disease. For instance, social distancing is one of the primary ways to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. What is social distancing? It merely means staying at home. Leading health experts recommend it. And you can be sure that your dog recommends it as well. Speaking of your furry friend, I'd like to talk a little more about the topic of dogs and the relation with coronavirus.

Dogs and Coronavirus

With the fast-paced spread of the COVID-19 disease and the global attempt at controlling it, there has been lots of information (and misinformation) spreading, about whether or not this outbreak will affect your dog (and pets). Lucky for us, the consensus seems to be, you cannot give coronavirus to your pet. It appears that this particular strain of the virus can't be given to cats or dogs. However, if you watched the news just weeks ago, you may have been under a different impression...

Test of Dog From Hong Kong Came Back Positive for COVID-19

Just a couple of weeks ago, from the time of writing this article, a dog was tested and found to be positive for coronavirus. These results caused panic among pet owners everywhere. After the dogs' owner himself tested positive, the dog was tested as well. However, it wasn't as bad as they thought. After testing viral RNA in samples taken from the dogs' nose and mouth, the test came back only as a "mild" positive, putting everyone more at ease.

The dog was then put in quarantine and has since shown signs of recovery. We're happy to let you know that the dog now tests negative for the coronavirus virus. The authorities in Hong Kong are still keeping the dog under quarantine, just as a precaution. Disease control and medical researchers believe that this is an isolated case with no need to worry. As of now, there's no evidence to support owners of pets spreading the virus to their pets. It appears that this disease is transmitted among humans and not from humans to pets.

WHO (World Health Organization) has released the following statement regarding coronavirus and pets:

"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."

In the case with the dog from Hong Kong had very small particles of the virus present and displayed no actual clinical signs of the disease. It's possible that these particles found on the dog were from the dogs' owner and had not actually infected the dog.

Cats and dogs are mammals just like we humans are. We share a lot of the same types of cell receptors. With that being said, although it's theoretically possible that coronavirus could attach to your pets' cells, it's not likely.


Your Dog During Quarantine

So does this mean that if you get infected with coronavirus, you can stay close to your dog? Not exactly. Health experts recommend that people with coronavirus restrain contact with their pets as well as contact with friends and family members.

If you have coronavirus, health experts recommend that you limit any contact you have with your dog, make sure to wash your hands frequently, and definitely do not allow your dog to be licking your face. In fact, if possible, it would be best if you can leave your pet with a friend of a family member who is not in quarantine. Your pet might even have more fun!

Canines and COVID-19

Interestingly enough, Canine Coronavirus does exist. It's called CCoV; however, this strand of coronavirus is very different than the COVID-19 infection we as humans are battling.

Coronavirus in Canines is an infectious infection that affects dogs' intestines. It's usually short-lived but can cause your pet lots of discomfort. Canine Coronavirus does not affect people and it's not a respiratory infection. Instead, it causes intestinal issues with dogs. Most cases of the canine coronavirus are caused by a puppy or dog coming into close contact with fecal matter that is infected. Another way dogs can become infected is by coming into contact with another dog that is infected or by eating from food bowls that are contaminated.

Many people are confusing Canine Coronavirus with Canine Parvovirus, which is an infectious illness that spreads rapidly and can also be deadly to dogs. Like the Canine Coronavirus, Parvovirus also causes dogs to have diarrhea. With that said, Canine Parvovirus is very deadly, especially to pups that have yet to be vaccinated and who have not received their vaccine shots. Similarly, the Parvovirus virus is transmitted by coming into close contact with fecal matter that is infected or coming into contact with other dogs who got infected with the virus.

If it's been 24 hours and your dogs' diarrhea that hasn't cleared up and he or she is showing other symptoms like lethargy and loss of appetite, you should pay a visit to your vet. 


Common Symptoms in Coronavirus

For now, the best thing for you is to take care of yourself. Also, if possible, try your best to remain at home. This will help to slow the rapid spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 symptoms start to show within fourteen days of exposure. Now we'll review some of the clinical signs and symptoms of the virus. These are the ones to look out for:

  1. Cough
    Coughing can be a sign that something wrong might lead to difficulty in breathing. If this occurs, you should immediately see your doctor.

  2. Fever
    Fever will usually follow an infection. If your temperature gets worse and remains high for several days, you should seek advice from your doctor.
  3. Shortness of Breath
    COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. Bad coughs can cause trouble breathing or even be a path to develop pneumonia.

  4. Body Aches
    Just like the common flu, COVID-19 can cause body aches, which is a common symptom that usually accompanies fever.

  5. Vomiting and Diarrhea
    In some cases, vomiting and diarrhea can result from an infection. 


In Conclusion: Coronavirus in Dogs

Every day we're learning more and more about COVID-19. As of now, you can rest assured no evidence shows coronavirus crossing over from you and causing infection in your dog. Regardless, it's best to always use caution during this challenging time we are all going through together.

Include your dog in your plans. If God-forbid you do get sick and need to be quarantined, make sure to stock up on extra pet food. Let a friend or family member know of your pets' daily needs so they can assist you. In times like this, you want to prepare in advance as much as you can. To all pet parents out there, stay healthy, and stay safe!

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Dr. Doni Zivotofsky

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

Doni Zivotofsky is a mixed animal veterinarian living now in Ma'ale Adumim, Israel. His patients range from dogs & cats to birds and camels.