Your dogs may be the last ones to fully grasp the concept of social distancing. In this crazy time, where a little love from a pet can go a long way, dog owners probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
But with the daily onslaught of new information about the novel coronavirus—including reports that two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus—dog owners might be wondering if their four-legged friends are also at risk. Can dogs get COVID-19?
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not received any reports of dogs or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States.
While the situation is still being evaluated, all major health organizations, including the CDC and the World Health Organization, have stated that there is no evidence at present that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
There is no evidence that dogs have infected any people,” says Dr. William Karesh, a wildlife vet and executive vice president for health and policy for EcoHealth Alliance in New York.
“It would be prudent, though, not to let dogs lick infected people, and dogs in households with infected people should also maintain social distance from other dogs and people, just as the human members of the household are urged to do.”
Here are some other points to keep in mind to help your pet keep living its best quarantine life.
How to protect your pup
Keeping healthy and virus-free should extend to your pets, too. So practice good hygiene when handling your dog. That means no kissing!
The American Veterinarian Medical Association recommends washing your hands before and after interacting with a pet; keeping the pet well-groomed; and regularly cleaning the pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys.
The CDC and AVMA advise those already sick with COVID-19 to limit contact with animals out of an abundance of caution, until more is known about the virus. They recommend having another person in the household care for the pets or, if that’s not possible, continuing to practice good hygiene when interacting with pets and wear a face mask.
Respiratory illness and your dog
Even if your dogs can’t get COVID-19, they could come down with another kind of respiratory disease, although their symptoms might be different from anything humans might experience.
“If your dog has respiratory disease, it will most likely be due to a number of common viral and bacterial diseases in dogs. Owners should contact their veterinarian to discuss the case and decide on a treatment plan,” says Karesh.
So, can dogs catch the coronavirus? A definitive answer might be near. IDEXX Laboratories, a global network of more than 80 diagnostic labs, recently announced a SARS-CoV-2 (another name for COVID-19) test for animals.
To date, the company has analyzed more than 4,500 cat and dog samples and found no cases of the virus.
“We wanted to make the public aware that if there becomes a medical need and/or clinically relevant reason pets should be tested for the virus, there is an accurate option that could be made available,” says Dr. Jim Blacka, a veterinarian with IDEXX’s Companion Animal Commercial Business.
Maintain essential vet visits
While pets are currently presumed not to be at risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19, that doesn’t mean they won’t have other health issues. Vets have been deemed as providing essential services, and many offer telemedicine and the occasional house visit.
Best Friends Animal Society is offering free veterinary consultations to those unable to leave their house due to the quarantine or to safety concerns, through the Best Friends Vet Access app for your phone or tablet.
The app allows users to connect with a licensed veterinarian by phone or video call. You can also text a vet with quick questions.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, and is free for 30 days with the code BFHELPS. Users will have to enter a credit card number. However, if they delete the account before the 30 days expires, they will not be charged the $12.99 monthly fee.