Schools are closing, restaurants and grocery stores are empty, and self-distancing is now a thing… all thanks to Coronavirus COVID-19. So the big question surrounding dogs is: Can this COVID-19 coronavirus affect dogs? Can dogs give the coronavirus to humans?
Dr. Jess, our resident veterinarian explains it all below:
What really is a virus?
A virus is a strange thing.
There is a lingering argument over whether viruses are living organisms or not, but I’ll save that for another day.
Viruses are teeny tiny infectious agents that can infect all types of living things, from giant mammals, to plants, and even the smallest of bacteria.
They infect living creatures by finding a route of entry (ex. mouth) into a host (ex. human), replicating it’s viral DNA inside the living host.
Sounds scary, right?
Well it can be.
But viruses are a lot less scary with answers and solutions….
Can Dogs Spread Viruses to Humans?
The spread of an infectious agent from animal to human is known as a zoonotic disease, or zoonosis.
There are many diseases that animals have that can spread to humans.
Some of the more commonly known zoonotic diseases/infections are:
- Rabies (virus)
- Salmonella (bacteria)
- E. Coli (bacteria)
- Toxoplasmosis (parasite)
- Ringworm (parasite)
And no wonder I am getting so many questions about this coronavirus and pets. According to the CDC’s website…
“…more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.”https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html
What is the coronavirus COVID-19?
The coronavirus (CoV) is a large virus family, just like the influenza virus is a virus family with many strains, like the H1N1 strain.
The COVID-19 coronavirus is a virus strain that was identified in 2019, hence the “-19” in its name. It has been identified in humans.
There are many strains of the coronavirus, some of which are zoonotic, therefore they can spread from animal to human, such as in the case of SARS-CoV (civet cats) and MERS-CoV (camels) according to the WHO.
The World Health Organization describes the human symptoms of coronavirus:
“Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.”https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
Can Dogs Get CoronaVirus?
Another great question.
Both dogs and cats can get coronavirus.
Coronavirus strains have been around in dog and cat populations for a long time.
The strains of the coronavirus that typically infect dogs and cats are different than the COVID-19 outbreak that we are experiencing in 2020.
Dogs with coronavirus are diagnosed with Canine Coronavirus Disease.
Canine Coronavirus is not the same thing as COVID-19, they are completely different strains of the virus.
What is the difference in symptoms between human and dog coronavirus?
- Dogs typically aren’t observed with respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, coughing, etc.
- Dogs, especially puppies with Canine Coronavirus, are seen with gastrointestinal (stomach and intestinal) issues such as acute (fast) onset diarrhea with a fetid (ridiculously stinky) odor and possible orange-tinge.
- Many times dogs will lose their appetites and become lethargic (tired, lack of energy).
What Can I Do If I Think My Dog May Have Coronavirus?
- First thing is to take a deep breath.
- Next step is to contact your local veterinarian.
- Your vet can direct you on which steps to take next.
- Most likely your vet will want to see your dog and formulate a diagnostic (testing) plan to pinpoint what is the likely cause of your dog’s symptoms.
What is the Treatment for Canine Coronavirus?
The treatment for canine coronavirus is what is known as symptomatic treatment, meaning you treat the symptoms that the dog is showing, not actually combatting the virus itself.
Most treatment plans for Canine Coronavirus include methods for halting the diarrhea and/or soft stool, rehydrating the dog (diarrhea can dehydrate due to extra loss of fluids) and correcting electrolyte imbalances, and combatting secondary infections with medications if necessary.
- Antibiotics will not eliminate the coronavirus because the coronavirus is a virus and not a bacteria.
- There is a vaccine for Canine Coronavirus. This vaccine isn’t given to all dogs, only dogs with higher likelihood of contracting the disease based on lifestyle and other associated risk factors determined by your veterinarian.
Can Dogs Spread Coronavirus to humans?
Here’s the thing….
There hasn’t been any research to support that dogs can spread or be a reservoir for the COVID-19 strain that is going around in human populations right now.
So what does that mean?
It means that most of us need more proof before believing dogs can spread COVID-19.
See, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) agrees with me.
If you want even more info from the GVMA, here is their list of up-to-the-minute resources about the pandemic as it relates to our pets and livestock.
It means that more research needs to be done with animals, pets, dogs, in order for a reliable answer to shine through.
And that also means time. Time needs to be spent for adequate research to be conducted. All in due time…
Can Humans Spread the COVID-19 Coronavirus to Dogs?
So here is another question that I am getting a lot these past few days.
There is obviously a lot of fear about the possibility of pet owners giving this virus to their pets at home.
There has been no evidence as far as the publishing date of this article that shows that infected humans can spread this COVID-19 strain to dogs.
However, on the CDC website, it is stated that…
“Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.”https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html
Yes, there were reports of a Pomeranian testing positive for the virus in Hong Kong a few weeks back, but the pet had no clinical signs (didn’t show signs that it was sick).
And that was one single case with a small amount of viral particles present.
So until more information is known about this virus, let’s keep this one open for debate…okay?
Should I QUARANTINE my dog?
Well, now that we’ve gone through the breakdown of the coronavirus from dogs-to-humans and humans-to-dogs, it is up to you on how you want to approach this. Now I can’t comment on the human side of things, but I can definitely add in my two cents on the dog side of this discussion…
If your dog is showing signs of sickness, call your vet to get advice.
Signs of sickness may include:
- not eating or drinking
- lethargy (lack of energy)
- coughing/shortness of breath
- sneezing/nasal discharge
- diarrhea/soft stool
What preventative measures can i take in case I am still weary?
If you are still uneasy about this coronavirus thing, take a look at the list of actionable steps (like the American Veterinary Medical Association’s suggestion of washing your hands!) you and your dog can take to make sure you are being as proactive as possible about your dog’s health during these unsettling times:
- hand soap
- paper towels
- hand sanitizer
- Monitor yourself and your dog for symptoms.
- Clean your hands often, and before and after interacting with your pet.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Do not kiss your dog or allow them to kiss you.
- Do not take your dog to the dog park or walk them in areas with high pet traffic.
- Keep dogs at home and do not go to doggy daycares or boarding facilities.
- Keep your pet's stress level as low as possible to avoid a lowered immune response in times of need.
This list is a basic summary of ideas of how to care for your dog during the COVID-19 outbreak.