No Evidence Dogs Get COVID-19
These FAQs were last updated on March 23, 2020.
Can dogs get the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?
At this time, experts believe it is very unlikely. The World Health Organization currently advises that there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. The OIE states there is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this disease or that they become sick. The CDC also seconds that opinion, stating that, “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
If experts believe it is unlikely for a dog to get COVID-19, how have two dogs tested “positive” in Hong Kong?
March 23, 2020 update: These canine patients were in close contact with infected people, who were likely shedding large quantities of the virus. This led to the virus being in the dogs’ noses. There is no indication that the dogs became sick or showed any symptoms. The first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, tested positive for over a week (end of February, first week of March) before having undetectable levels of the virus. The fact that it tested positive for that long indicated that the dog may have had a low-level infection, likely caused by human-to-animal transmission. That dog was released from quarantine on March 14 and died two days later. Authorities feel it is unlikely that the dog’s death was related to the virus; cause of death more likely was from other co-morbidities, although no necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed.
Listen and Learn: Podcasts on New Coronavirus
|Download explanations of the outbreak from veterinarians Jim Lowe and Ashley Mitek on The Round Barn podcast website.|
The first explains terms like “pandemic” and “virulence” in language everyone can understand and provide a fascinating account of how viruses move from one species to another, occasionally with devastating effects on the human population.
The second covers public health strategies for slowing transmission of the coronavirus. You might surprised how much a pig vet’s expertise in biosecurity relates directly to things like cancelling March Madness and “social distancing.”
Additional Resources from the College:
On March 18, two dogs were placed in quarantine after their owner tested positive for COVID-19. One of those dogs, a 2-year-old German shepherd, tested positive while the other dog was negative. As in the previous case, this is likely another instance of human-to-animal transmission. There is still no evidence that pets can serve as route for spreading COVID-19. The two dogs will remain in quarantine for the next 14 days with subsequent follow-up tests.
Although pets cannot become sick from COVID-19, could they serve as a conduit of infection between people?
Yes. It is possible that a person with COVID-19 could sneeze or otherwise contaminate their pet, and then another individual could touch that animal and contract the disease. Veterinary experts believe the risk for transmission would be low. COVID-19 survives longer on hard, inanimate surfaces (e.g., glass, metal) than on soft surfaces (e.g., fur, cardboard). Nevertheless, animals living with sick individuals should be kept away from other people and animals (quarantined at home), just as people who live with sick individuals must avoid contact with others.
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for dogs and cats?
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 for people or animals at this time.
Veterinarians are familiar with other coronaviruses. Similar but different coronavirus species cause several common diseases in domestic animals. Many dogs, for example, are vaccinated for another species of coronavirus (Canine Coronavirus) as puppies. However, this vaccine does not cross protect for COVID-19.
Can veterinarians test for COVID-19 in pets?
Yes. As of March 15, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the College of Veterinary Medicine has the capability to test for the new COVID-19 in pets. The test request must be submitted by a veterinarian and must include the rationale for the test. Requests will then be sent to the state animal health officer and state public health veterinarian for approval on a case-by-case basis. In the event of a positive result, these same officials must be notified before the referring veterinarian. Please contact the diagnostic laboratory with any further questions at 217-333-1620.
Why is the college offering a COVID-19 test for pets if they cannot get it?
Although current information suggests that our pets cannot become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to other animals and people, researchers at the college will begin offering this testing in the future in order to monitor the outbreak. We still have a lot to learn about this new virus, and it will be important to evaluate if our current understanding changes.
What animal did COVID-19 originate from?
Current research suggests that horseshoe bats are the reservoir species and the virus originated from that species as well. Previous human coronavirus outbreaks, SARS and MERS, originated in bats but passed through other species, such as the palm civet and camels.
If I am diagnosed with COVID-19, how do I protect my pet?
Since your pet is at minimal risk of COVID-19 infection there are no specific steps needed to protect them from infection. However, pets can have the virus ON THEM if they are in an environment with a large quantity of the virus and could serve to be a source of the virus for other people, including family members. Therefore, to protect other people and yourself, the CDC recommends that you restrict contact with pets if you are sick with COVID-19, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. Avoid snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must interact with your pet, wash your hands before and after, and wear a face mask.
Should my pet wear a face mask in public?
No. Face masks may not protect your pet from disease transmission and may cause other breathing difficulties.
Should I wear a face mask?
Wearing a surgical mask will not prevent anyone (human or animal) from being exposed to the virus. A mask should be used to prevent someone that is potentially infectious from spreading the virus to others via droplets through coughing, sneezing, or talking.
Will the COVID-19 have any impact on food safety?
Because domestic animals cannot contract the virus, there is no threat to food safety.
How do I protect my pet and myself from COVID-19?
Since your pet is at minimal risk of COVID-19 infection there are no specific steps needed to protect them from infection.
To protect yourself the CDC recommends the following steps:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds!
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw it away.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Voluntary home isolation: If you are ill with symptoms of respiratory disease, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue, stay home. The CDC recommends that you remain at home until at least 24 hours after you are free of fever (100 degrees F) or signs of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- Veterinary practices should designate their clinic as a temporary NO HANDSHAKE ZONE. Ask colleagues and clients to refrain from shaking hands.
What other precautions do you recommend?
Visitation to nursing homes and long-term care facilities by service animals and their handlers should be discouraged at this time.
- Richard Fredrickson, DVM, MS, Director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
- Yvette J. Johnson-Walker, DVM, MS, PhD, Faculty, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Affiliate Faculty, UIC School of Public Health
- Jim Lowe, DVM, MS, Associate Professor, Veterinary Clinical Medicine
- William Sander, DVM, MPH, Assistant Professor, Preventative Medicine & Public Health
- Leyi Wang, DVM, MS, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory