- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
A new virus called SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, is making headlines around the world. People in multiple countries have been infected, and many areas are taking measures to try and stop the spread of this contagious virus. But what about our furry companions? Can dogs develop COVID-19? Can they pass that infection on?
You can visit the CDC Website for weekly updates on human coronavirus, we’ll do our best to cover what this virus means for your dog.
Update: A second dog has tested positive for the new coronavirus. What does it mean?
While a second dog has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong, not much has changed. Much like the original dog, the dog that tested positive lived with someone with COVID-19, is showing no signs of illness, and there continues to be no evidence that dogs or other domestic pets can spread SARS-CoV-2.
In addition, a second dog from the same residence tested negative. Both dogs are in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
According to the New York Times, here’s what happened with the first dog: “A coronavirus patient in Hong Kong had a dog, and the authorities tested the dog which showed some level of virus in its nose and mouth. They’ve tested it several times, and the tests still show a ‘weak positive.’ The dog will remain in quarantine, the authorities said, until its tests are negative,” the paper reports.
Want to hear from the experts? We quizzed Dr. Gary Richter on COVID-19 and dogs.
What we know about the new situation
Basically, the dog has coronavirus on/in him (from living with a person who had the virus) but is not sick with the disease, and is being quarantined and monitored as a safety precaution.
- The dog shows no symptoms of the virus and has not developed COVID-19.
- There is currently no evidence that dogs or other pets can be a source of infection of SARS-CoV-2.
- The dog is being monitored and cared for in isolation from other animals and humans.
We will continue to update this post to give you the best and most current information for the safety of you and your dogs.
Can dogs get the new coronavirus?
Fortunately, there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted to humans by our dogs, cats, or other companion animals. Of the many worries that a new virus can bring up, you can set aside this particular worry.
That isn’t to say, however, that a dog that’s living with someone infected with the new coronavirus can’t briefly carry the virus on their fur or elsewhere on their body. It only means that it looks like this particular coronavirus can’t actively make your dog sick.
Here at Rover, we want to make sure that you have up-to-date information about this new infectious disease and what it means for you and your companion animals.
What can I do to avoid contracting the new coronavirus?
Now that we know that dogs can’t “get” COVID-19 in this instance, how do we keep ourselves and the humans around us healthy?
This is a rapidly developing story and the CDC’s guidelines may change, but for now the CDC recommends some very familiar guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, rubbing your soapy hands for 20 seconds.
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover every cough and sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- If you are sick, stay home.
- If you have concerns about your symptoms, contact your doctor.
They also recommend these general guidelines when interacting with animals:
- Wash your hands after handling pets, food dishes and toys.
- Keep your pet’s area clean.
- Avoid contact with your pets if you are sick.
If you develop respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, contact your health provider for assistance.
What is a coronavirus? It’s more prevalent than you think.
We have all had a coronavirus infection in our lives—these viruses cause illnesses that range from mild (the common cold, intestinal upset) to severe (SARS, MERS). Some coronaviruses are specialized on a single type of animal, including dogs (canine coronaviruses) and cats (feline coronaviruses).
How dangerous is the new coronavirus?
To date, the cases of COVID-19 that have been investigated have ranged from mild illness to people being severely ill and dying. “The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is still not fully clear,” the CDC explains,
The related viruses SARS and MERS both caused severe illness in people, and the behavior of those viruses is helping public health researchers to predict the future behavior of SARS-CoV-2.
For some perspective, the flu (which is not in the coronavirus family) is more dangerous and deadly than coronavirus. The CDC reports that this year in the US, approximately 15 million people have gotten the flu, leading to more than 8,000 deaths.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus in humans?
According to the CDC, patients with COVID-19 have experienced mild to severe respiratory symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
On the CDC website, they explain, “CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.”
What does it mean that the virus is new?
The virus SARS-CoV-2 is considered new because it had not been identified in humans (or any other species) prior to December 2019. The virus was identified after several people in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China showed symptoms of respiratory illness.
Public health researchers have concluded that the source of the new virus is bats, and that it was able to jump from its bat host to a human host in a host shift event.
Shifting between animal hosts is typical of coronaviruses; they are classified as zoonotic viruses precisely because of this ability to host shift between animals. For example, scientists first proposed that that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
More recent evidence indicates that like SARS-CoV-2, both SARS and MERS originated in bats.
Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet, and may never, infect humans.
Can humans give dogs the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?
Not in the way you’re thinking. While the dog in Hong Kong may have a low-level infection of the new coronavirus, it’s showing no signs of illness, and there’s no indication that it can pass the illness on.
It’s also possible that dogs and other pets would serve as “dead-end hosts,” neither showing symptoms of illness or passing on the virus.
The quarantine is a precaution until officials in Hong Kong know more.
That said, the CDC still recommends taking precautions if you start showing signs of COVID-19 infection:
While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person. CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.
Do not handle pets or other animals while sick. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, several types of coronaviruses can cause illness in animals and spread between animals and people. Until we know more, avoid contact with animals and wear a facemask if you must be around animals or care for a pet.
Can dogs give humans the coronavirus?
As far as we know, dogs do not become infected with COVID-19 in a way that can spread the virus to people or other animals through normal means.
According to my research, there are no examples of any coronaviruses being passed between dogs and people. (Although now old news, SARS, the breakthrough coronavirus of 2003, could be passed between humans and domestic cats in laboratory tests).
Dogs can spread some other viruses to people, including rabies, salmonella, and norovirus (aka stomach flu), but there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can move between pets and people.
That said, a dog can become a passive carrier simply by having the virus on their fur. They aren’t sickened by the virus and aren’t propagating more of it, but a study on coronaviruses does state that some viruses can last up to 9 days on an inanimate object. (Obviously that would be for a shorter period of time on a living creature, but there are no current studies to reference for that particular scenario.)
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to practice caution when petting a dog you don’t know, or caring for a dog that’s been in contact with an individual showing signs of illness.
Wash your hands often, and take normal precautions.
What are the symptoms of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in dogs?
Dogs cannot become infected by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, as far as scientists know.
Based on what we know about other coronaviruses, it is unlikely that the virus is able to infect both dogs and humans.
That said, because COVID-19 is so new, there is a lot we don’t know about it yet.
Wait… I heard that dogs CAN get coronavirus.
Dogs cannot become ill from COVID-19, according to current scientific knowledge of the virus.
There are about 40 types of coronavirus and three of these other viruses can infect dogs—these are called Canine Coronaviruses. The “CC” in their names means “canine coronavirus”: CCoV I, CCoV II, and CRCoV (canine respiratory coronavirus). These viruses are in the same family as COVID-19, but the symptoms are generally mild and they do not infect humans.
Facts about CCoV — canine coronavirus
As I mentioned, the family of coronaviruses is very large, and many types of animals have their own specific types of coronaviruses, including cats, rabbits, ferrets, cows, turkeys, and pigs.
Dogs are no exception.
Do you need to worry about canine coronavirus?
No. In fact, there is a Canine coronavirus vaccine available, but most vets follow the guidance of American Animal Hospital Association, which does not recommend it for dogs because the virus is so mild.
Also, dogs old enough to receive the vaccine may be too old to be at risk of infection, which makes it, ahem, a mutt point.
Still worried? Here’s the scoop on canine coronaviruses
There are three types of canine coronaviruses known to veterinary science. Two very similar viruses, CCoV types I and II, cause diarrhea. The third canine coronavirus, CRCoV, causes respiratory problems; it is considered part of the “kennel cough complex” of respiratory infections.
More than 50% of dogs tested in US studies have antibodies to CRCoV, which indicates that they were exposed to the virus earlier in their lives. There is no vaccine for CRCoV, which spreads through saliva and sneezes like the common cold.
The best prevention is to vaccinate your dog for other respiratory infections in order to avoid co-infection and to isolate dogs with kennel cough until symptoms subside.
CCoV types I and II, the diarrhea strains, spread from one dog to another through saliva and feces. So if your dog has a taste for turd treats, he’s more likely to get exposed. The virus can remain active in dog feces for long periods, particularly when frozen outdoors.
But CCoV is usually very mild and your dog may not show any symptoms at all. Most dogs that get CCoV are younger than 6 weeks of age, and the symptoms clear up on their own with no special treatment.
However, if you have puppies under 6 weeks of age, ask your vet for recommendations to keep your pups from coming into contact with CCoV. The virus can be dangerous when it co-occurs with parvovirus and other infections, and an extremely rare strain of CCoV was recently found to be fatal in puppies that were housed in high-density kennels.
How will I know if my dog has CCoV?
If your dog is older than six weeks, its very unlikely (possibly even unprecedented) that she will become infected with CCoV.
Puppies exposed to the virus develop symptoms 3-5 days after exposure.
The Merck Veterinary Manual lists these signs of canine coronavirus infection in dogs:
- Loss of Appetite
- Acute diarrhea
- Yellow to orange diarrhea varying from soft to watery (may also contain blood)
- Fever (occasionally)
Because the virus is highly contagious, puppies that are in frequent contact will other dogs are at the highest risk for infection.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual dogs with these risk factors are more likely to get CCoV:
- Dogs younger than 6 weeks
- Dogs that come from shelters, rescue centers, breeding kennels, or pet stores
- Boarding at a kennel or doggie daycare
- Visiting groomers, dog parks, or engaging with other dogs on a daily basis
- Dogs that live in multiple pet homes