A new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) seen to cause pneumonia in people was first reported in China in December 2019. Since then, cases of Covid-19 in humans have emerged around the world.

In late February, it was reported that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. The dog was from a household where the owner had tested positive for Covid-19. The dog is currently in quarantine and is not showing any signs of illness.

What does this news mean for us and our pets?  As this is an emerging, novel virus, new information is gathered daily and recommendations change as health authorities learn more about the disease.  Before we panic, let’s take a look at what we know.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which can cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, many common colds are caused by coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are also the cause of more recent outbreaks of serious respiratory diseases in humans such as SARS (severe respiratory syndrome) and MERS (middles east respiratory syndrome).

This family of viruses are also common in several species of domestic animals including dogs and cats and clinical disease can range from mild gastrointestinal disease to severe systemic illness.

Can Coronavirus be transmitted from my dog to me or vice versa?

Most viruses are species specific, meaning that a coronavirus that infects dogs does not cause clinical illness in humans. However from time to time, viruses can cross species barriers. In the last two major coronaviruses that were transmitted to humans, transmission occurred through intermediate hosts: the masked palm civet in SARS and the dromedary camel in MERS. The 2019 novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is thought to have originated from a host species such as bats and transmitted to humans through an intermediate animal host. Investigations are still ongoing.

However, at this time the CDC and WHO say there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, transmit COVID-19. In regards to the dog in Hong Kong that tested positive, the precise significance of this positive test remains unclear. The most likely scenario is that the dog was infected by its COVID-19 positive owner. This dog continues to show no signs of clinical illness and to date there are no confirmed cases of transmission from dog to human. Experts have NOT expressed concern about pets and other domestic animals for spreading or becoming ill from COVID-19 at this time.

Practical steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from the COVID-19 coronavirus

  • Frequent and careful handwashing can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • It is always good practice to wash your hands after handling or petting animals.
  • Watch a video about the WHO’s recommended handwashing technique.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick or have a fever.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Maintain more personal space between you and other people than you might usually.
  • Vaccinate your pets as recommended by your veterinarian.

Steps to take for your pet should you become sick with COVID-19

CDC recommends that people who are sick with COVID-19 restrict contact with pets and other animals just like you would restrict your contact with other people. When possible, a member of the household other than the individual who is ill should care for any animals in the household. If you are sick with COVID-19, limit the contact your pet has with other people and animals. Practically this means that they should eliminate in an area isolated from other animals such as your back yard, they should avoid licking or snuggling with other people and avoid areas frequented by other animals such as dog parks.

Covid-19 is a dynamic disease. Amherst Veterinary Hospital will strive to update you on updates of this disease as it pertains to our 4- legged companions.

Sincerely,

Dr. Loretta Yuen D.V.M

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