UPDATE AS OF MAY 1, 2020 by Dr. Vicki M Petsche

The CDC reports at this time there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. There have been very few reports where it appears that people can spread the virus to animals in some situations. In the United States several big cats in a zoo tested positive as well as two house cats and one dog. The respiratory signs in these animals were mild and they fully recovered. The CDC states that the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is low.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has provided data indicating the risk is low.

*Almost 200 pet and stray dogs and cats from Wuhan, China had no antibodies detected on serological tests excluding them as a mode of transmission.

*As of April 23, 2020, there have been over 2.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in people while the number of confirmed cases in dogs and cats is less than 10 worldwide.

*A pet insurance company with data from millions of claims over the last 20 years has seen no upward trend in claims for respiratory illnesses in dogs or cats since the start of the pandemic.

Further studies are needed to better understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 could affect animals. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will provide updates as they become available.

Please continue to social distance so we can all stay well.

Below is the original blog published on March 1, 2020:

Recently there has been a worldwide concern about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and it has quickly become a global public health risk. The exact source of the outbreak is still not known, but the origin is believed to be linked to the Hunan South China market. While this virus has seemed to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading person to person.

CAN CANINES BECOME INFECTED WITH THE CORONAVIRUS?

Both dogs and cats have their own species specific coronaviruses, not to be confused with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 currently causing the worldwide health concern. The coronavirus in dogs is otherwise not typically dangerous in dogs and causes respiratory symptoms. You can read about it here. In cats, the feline enteric coronavirus is even more common.

The corona virus is not unusual in nature and has been identified in many species, including humans. In people the spread of our own coronavirus causes symptoms we would contribute to the “common cold”. However since COVID-19 is new to humans, we have no antibodies to protect against it.

Recently a dog belonging to a COVID-19 positive patient in Hong Kong had been discovered with a low level of coronavirus, what officials are labeling as a “weak positive”.  This pet has exhibited no signs of illness. Further testing is being performed to determine if this dog is truly infected with the virus or if the weak positive is due to contamination of the dog’s mouth and nose. There is no evidence if a dog tests positive that they would show illness or be able to pass the virus to humans

CAN VIRUSES CROSS BETWEEN SPECIES?

Historically it is very rare for a virus to cross between species. However it is possible for viruses to mutate and then jump species. In 2007 the H3N8 influenza virus mutated from an equine influenza into a dog influenza. In 2015 the H3N2 influenza virus jumped from avians to dogs and caused widespread outbreaks of respiratory illness with Chicago being the epicenter in the United States. For humans, in 2003 the outbreak of  SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), also a coronavirus, is thought to have jumped from bats to civet cats to humans.

IS MY DOG SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE NEW CORONA VIRUS?

Currently there is no evidence that dogs or cats can be infected with this new coronavirus. According to the World Small Veterinary Association and the World Health Organization there is no indication that dogs or other companion animals can transmit the new coronavirus to people, and there is no evidence that pet animals can be infected with the corona virus.

HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR A POSSIBLE OUTBREAK?

Experts are recommending that people prepare for the possibility of their family being placed under a 14 day quarantine. This applies to your pets too! Be sure to have enough pet food and any required medications to last 2 weeks if a travel ban or quarantine is implemented in your area.