Dogs and Coronavirus: The FAQS

You can’t watch television, listen to the radio, or open the Internet these days without running into news about the coronavirus – more formally known as COVID-19.

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There is a fair degree of hysteria about the virus at the moment. At the same time, the coronavirus in humans is a serious illness. It has made an estimated 100,000 people sick, especially in China. And more than 3,000 people have died since the virus was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. So, being concerned about the coronavirus is understandable. But, should you be worried about dogs and coronavirus?

This virus is newly-emerged so we don’t know everything about it yet. We can tell you what is known at this time. Keep reading and we’ll provide answers to the most commonly asked questions about dogs and coronavirus.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dogs and Coronavirus

Do dogs get coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can cause various diseases in humans and other animals. You might remember MERS and SARS a few years ago. Those were both different kinds of coronaviruses that affected people. Some coronaviruses affect other animals. Other corona viruses specifically affect dogs: canine enteric coronavirus, a highly contagious intestinal infection that mostly affects puppies. There is a vaccine for this virus (many puppies receive it when they get their early shots). This kind of coronavirus is not transferred to human.

The other kind of canine coronavirus is canine respiratory coronavirus. This virus is similar to a cold in humans. It’s considered one of the viruses that often gets passed around as kennel cough. There is no vaccine for this particular kind of canine coronavirus but it does not spread to other species.

At this time there is no concrete evidence that COVID-19, the coronavirus in the news, can be passed between dogs and people, or between humans and dogs.

Isn’t there a news story about a dog that has a “weak positive” for coronavirus?

There has been a news story from Hong Kong about a dog, owned by a person with coronavirus, that had a “weak positive” test for COVID-19. Hong Kong authorities insist that the dog is infected, though it does not have any symptoms of the virus and they admit that it is unlikely that dogs or other pets could transmit the virus. Other health authorities have suggested that the dog has the virus on his fur and other body parts, so the dog might have traces of the dead virus from the owner instead of being actually infected. Authorities are still waiting for blood test results at this time. Some authorities have criticized the Hong Kong authorities for making any announcement before they had results from the dog’s bloodwork.

Should I stay away from my dog if I’m worried about becoming infected?

No human health or veterinary authorities have even hinted that humans can become infected with the coronavirus by being around dogs. It’s extremely unlikely that dogs can become infected by being around humans.

What should I do to avoid any possibility of transmitting the virus to or from my dog?

As with other things related to the coronavirus, health authorities recommend that you wash your hands with soap after interacting with your pet. They also suggest that you avoid kissing your dog. If you become sick with the coronavirus, it’s suggested that your pet be quarantined in the unlikely event that s/he is infected with the virus. This is mostly so health authorities could watch the dog and see if the dog develops any symptoms. Keep in mind that if your pet is infected, it doesn’t mean that s/he will be sick or is capable of spreading the virus.

The coronavirus can live for a short time (the length of time is unknown but is suspected to be somewhere between a few hours and a few days) on inanimate objects like boxes and furniture, so it’s not surprising if the virus might live on your dog’s fur for a time. If you are concerned about your dog picking up the virus when you take him out for a walk or to the vet’s office, you can always give him a bath when you get home or use some wipes that are safe for use on dogs to wipe down his fur and remove germs.

Some people have also suggested wiping off your dog’s paws after going for a walk to limit the spread of germs.

Should people turn in their dogs to shelters if they are worried about dogs spreading disease?

No, definitely not! There is no reason to surrender or abandon your dog because of coronavirus. The chances of your dog becoming infected with this virus are very remote. Even if your dog should be infected with the virus, there is absolutely no evidence that any dog has had symptoms of coronavirus or spread the illness. At this time, all coronavirus cases have been spread from person to person or possibly from touching surfaces that have the virus on them.

There are no (none, zip, zero) cases of people becoming sick from being around dogs.

Are people in China killing dogs because of the coronavirus?

We only found one report online about dogs in one Chinese province being killed due to some misunderstanding of a statement from a Chinese health official about the virus. If this did happen, it appears that it was not something widespread.

Should my dog wear a mask?

There’s really no need for your dog to wear a mask. Some people wear masks if they are infected with the coronavirus so they won’t spread it by sneezing or coughing on others. Wearing a mask does not prevent people from becoming infected with the virus. Likewise, if your dog wears a mask, it won’t prevent him from catching anything. Once again, it’s extremely unlikely that any dog will become infected with COVID-19.

There are dogs in China wearing masks but this seems to be due to panic and hysteria more than anything else. According to the information we found, some of the owners of these dogs believe the masks will prevent their dogs from licking or eating objects that might have the virus on them. Good luck with that. If that is the purpose, a muzzle would be a better choice.

Summary

With dogs and coronavirus there are two kinds of canine coronavirus that affect dogs. Those viruses have nothing to do with COVID-19, the coronavirus that’s in the news. There is scant evidence that dogs can become infected with COVID-19. There are claims that exactly one dog in Hong Kong has a “weak positive” for the coronavirus infection but the dog has no symptoms. Some health authorities doubt the dog has the infection. All evidence suggests that your dog cannot be affected by COVID-19. Just to be safe you should wash your hands with soap after petting him or her and try not to kiss your dog for the time being.

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