On March 12th, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (the recent strain, known as COVID-19) a global pandemic. They urged governments, private healthcare institutions, and the general public to take aggressive measures to stem the rapid spread of the disease.
In the wake of these concerns, many pet owners have raised questions about their own safety and that of their companion animals during the COVID -19 outbreak.
Can my dog get the Coronavirus COVID-19?
While dogs can contract some coronaviruses, such as canine coronavirus (CRCoV), there is currently no evidence to suggest that dogs are vulnerable to the new COVID-19 virus, and no domestic animals have yet contracted the novel coronavirus. One dog in Hong Kong did show a weak positive result upon testing, but the animal was a constant companion of a person who had already contracted the virus. It’s believed that the owners shedding of the virus caused the dog to test positive. There are no veterinary COVID-19 tests.
Do dogs carry the Coronavirus COVID-19?
Although the COVID-19 virus does not seem to affect dogs (or cats), the virus is spread from person-to-person by contact, and the virus can live on both organic and nonorganic surfaces for hours to several days at room temperature. So, it is theoretically possible to catch the virus by touching your pet after the animal has come in contact with an infected person. While no documented cases of COVID-19 transmission have occurred in this way, it is generally recommended that you wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after contact with any surface you suspect may be compromised by the virus.
Can your dog get Coronavirus COVID-19 on walks?
Dogs are natural roamers who love to walk and explore; and consequently, they may come in contact with a variety of potential toxins—including plants, insecticides, road salt, and other agents. They may also come in contact with any microbes in their environment, including bacteria, molds, and viruses. If you are concerned about your pet bringing COVID-19 into your home, it’s recommended that you gently wash or wipe down your pet’s paws after walks to remove any dirt, debris, or potential pathogens.
Note: Again, it is imperative that you practice safe hand hygiene after coming in from outdoors.
Do pets require special protection from Coronavirus COVID-19?
Despite some images that have been circulating online, showing dogs wearing surgical-style facemasks, there is no evidence that such measures are needed, nor do they provide any benefit to your pet. Also, placing a mask over your dog's face may obstruct his ability to gain proper breath support.
Can I still take my dog to the dog park during the outbreak?
Dogs are not at risk for catching the virus and play time with other animals provides much needed exercise and socialization. You may lower your risk for human-to-human COVID-19 transmission by visiting your local dog park during off-peak hours, when such areas tend to be less crowded.
Are Doggy Daycares Safe during the Pandemic?
While dogs are not able to get COVID-19 or pass it from dog to dog, the virus has shown an ability to live for hours to days on surfaces, including your pet’s fur. Since we are still learning about the virus, many are choosing to err on the side of caution and are avoiding boarding their animals, at least for the time being. Again, the risk here is less to your animal’s health and more to human transmission—which is what the CDC’s current social distancing recommendations address. The key now is to adopt basic sanitary practices like frequent hand-washing to minimize viral contact from surfaces.
4/28/20 Update: A pug in North Carolina recently tested positive for COVID-19 along with a few family members. However, some household members—including other companion animals—did not. Heather McLean, a hospital pediatrician and vice chair and associate professor at Duke University (also the owner of the pug) stated: “We’re not seeing an epidemic of household pets or them transmitting it to other humans and animals—we just happened to detect it in our dog."
7/30/20 Update: Buddy, the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, passed away on July 11th. He was also battling cancer (lymphoma) at the time of his death.
COVID-19 is a novel virus in the discovery phase—identifying new cases, distributing tests, and isolating hard-hit communities. If you live in a community that’s been the center of an outbreak, do not panic. Follow the instructions of healthcare professionals, and for more information, consult health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
Editor’s Note: Having the supplies to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are tips for creating a pet first aid kit for home or on-the-go.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.