Can Dogs Get Coronavirus? A Vet Weighs In
After a dog in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for coronavirus, a vet explains what that means for your pup.
On Feb. 28, the dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for the virus, also known as COVID-19. In a statement from the territory's Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD), a government spokesperson said that the dog did not have "any relevant symptoms" and had been quarantined. Naturally, this begged one question for pet owners everywhere: Can dogs get coronavirus?
Christie Long, DVM, the head of veterinary medicine at Modern Animal in Los Angeles, pointed out that coronaviruses are a family of viruses containing strains. One strain, of course, is the current COVID-19 and another is SARS, which caused an epidemic in 2003. While it's unclear if the dog in Hong Kong does have coronavirus, Long says "there are strains of coronavirus that do affect dogs, typically puppies."
"Disease tends to be mild and self-limiting, but as coronaviruses themselves are capable of rapid mutation, we are always on the lookout for evidence of disease caused by new strains of this virus," Long says.
The fact that the dog in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for COVID-19 "places the case under great scrutiny," Long notes. According to the government official, "the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people," and that further testing will be done "to confirm if the dog has really been infected with the virus or this is a result of environmental contamination." So, it's unclear at this point if this dog in Hong Kong has COVID-19 and if dogs can contract the strain of coronavirus at all.
"Since the dog lives with a COVID-19 patient, the potential is significant for the positive test to have come as a result of the dog picking up the virus from the environment with its nose," Long says. She points out that the fact that the dog has no symptoms is a good sign.
Still, Long recommends that "pet owners remember good hygiene practices and always wash [their] hands thoroughly after interacting with pets." Thorough hand-washing—20 seconds of lathering up with soap and water—is the best way to stay safe.