Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?

With pictures of dogs donning face masks popping up in newsfeeds, some pet parents are on edge. But is coronavirus in dogs really a threat?

Published Mar. 11, 2020

As confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to grow across Canada, it’s natural to worry, at least a little, about whether you and your family will stay healthy. And, of course, that includes thinking about the possibility of coronavirus in dogs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can sicken people or animals. Coronaviruses are responsible for the common cold, as well as the SARS outbreak in 2003. This newest strain of coronavirus is known as COVID-19.

But do you really need to be as concerned about your retriever as you are about your kids? Here are answers to the questions about canine coronavirus that dog parents have been asking.

Should I worry about the spread of the new coronavirus in dogs?

No, at least not at this time. Spokespeople from both the WHO and Public Health Agency of Canada have stated that there is no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other pets or people.

Available data on recent dog illnesses in the United States seems to confirm that, too. Pet medical insurance company Trupanion monitors such data on a “very granular” level daily, and by breed and location, explains Mary Rothlisberger, vice president of analytics. “We are on top of any health-related trends that might be out of the norm. We have not seen any increases or changes in the frequency of illnesses that would appear unusual,” she says.

But what about that dog in Hong Kong?

Yes, one older male dog in Hong Kong tested as “weakly positive” for the virus in late February, although WHO officials recently reported that the dog never showed symptoms and is doing fine. His owner had contracted COVID-19. To date, he is the only dog in the world to have tested positive for canine coronavirus.

“The dog had low levels of the virus in its nose and mouth… and could have picked it up from the patient with the virus—or from surfaces he had touched,” says Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH and founder of concierge practice, Animal Acupuncture in New York City, further explains. “Since dogs’ noses and mouths come in contact with just about everything, it is hard to say.” WHO will continue to study the situation, but for now maintains there is no evidence that household pets can transmit the new coronavirus.

Aren’t there other types of coronavirus in dogs?

“The most common strains of coronavirus that affect dogs are canine enteric coronavirus, or CECoV, and canine respiratory coronavirus, known as CRCoV, neither of which can be transmitted to humans,” says Jamie Richardson, DVM, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in New York City. CECoV causes mild gastrointestinal symptoms.

Signs of a CRCoV infection, better known as kennel cough, are cough, fever, or breathing difficulties, says Sabrina Kuo, DVM, a veterinarian who owns Chicago’s West Loop branch of GoodVets.

“Survival rates of both [types of canine coronavirus] are high,” says Dr. Richardson. “Almost always, the symptoms of these two strains are mild and pets typically recover on their own.” But as with most other infections, complications can crop up for pets with other underlying health conditions and the very young and very old. It’s always smart to be aware of these secrets your dog’s tail is trying to tell you, too.

I know the odds are low, but what would be the symptoms of the new coronavirus in dogs?

Since there are no actual cases of canine COVID-19, it is hard to say what the symptoms would be like, asserts Dr. Barrack. “If you have a pet that becomes sick after contact with people infected by COVID-19, it is important to contact your veterinarian, but remember it is highly unlikely that a dog, or a cat, could be infected,” she adds.

Is it OK to bring my small dog in a carrier on a domestic flight?

“There are no necessary precautions for travelling with a dog during this coronavirus outbreak other than those you would usually take,” says Dr. Barrack. She points to these guidelines:

  • Check that your dog’s carrier meets your airline’s requirements, which you can find on its website.
  • Dogs must be at least eight to 12 weeks old to fly, depending on the airline.
  • You’ll need a health and immunization clearance certificate from your vet. You may be advised against flying with dogs who have cardiac or respiratory issues, epilepsy, blood clots, or hypertension, as well as pregnant or elderly dogs.
  • Feed your dog at least four hours prior to flight time to ensure they have had some time for digestion and to relieve themselves. They should have water available in flight.
  • Wash your hands, or use a hand sanitizer, right before boarding.

What precautions against canine coronavirus can I take, just in case?

In the unlikely event you or someone in your household does contract COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia urges avoiding contact with your dog, including petting, being licked, kissing, and sharing food.

WHO recommends always washing your hands after playing with or snuggling your dog. COVID-19 aside, salmonella and E. coli can easily pass between pets and their people. And if your dog is sick, “Keep her home and away from dog parks, groomers, and playgroups to limit the spread to other dogs,” says Dr. Richardson.

“There is no need to panic,” concludes Dr. Kuo. “The veterinary community is heavily involved with understanding this rapidly evolving situation and how it affects our pets.”

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest