Article summary: this article answers 5 of the most frequently asked questions regarding pets and coronavirus (COVID-19), can pets catch it, vaccinations, and more.
Can my pet get sick with COVID-19? Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?
To date, there have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.
Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. So far, the current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission only (ie. Through direct contact with an infected person, or from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs and sneezes). However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.
What about that dog in Hong Kong that tested positive for Coronavirus?
The National Veterinary Services of Hong Kong reported to OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) evidence that a dog had tested positive to the COVID-19 virus following close exposure to its owners who were sick with COVID-19. The test, conducted by real-time PCR, showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus. The dog was not showing any clinical signs of the disease.
There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the COVID-19 virus. The OIE will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
What is the difference between COVID-19 and Coronaviruses commonly found in pets?
Coronaviruses belong to the family Coronaviridae. Alpha- and beta-coronaviruses usually infect mammals.
Canine and feline coronaviruses are both alpha-coronaviruses. They are common in the pet population. They affect the enteric (intestinal) system, causing diarrhea. These coronaviruses are not associated with the current coronavirus outbreak.
COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus SARS-CoV (identified in 2002/2003) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus MERS-CoV (identified in 2012) belong to the beta-coronaviruses, which are capable of infecting humans and causing respiratory disease.
Should veterinarians start to vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirus?
The canine coronavirus vaccines available in some global markets are intended to protect against enteric (intestinal) coronavirus infection and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19 since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in the dog.
How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. Wash your hands after being around animals.
It is important to emphasize that what we talk about in this article is a basic, informative document on the most frequently asked question about the COVID-19 virus and pets. We always recommend consulting with our veterinarian team about any specific situation or symptom your pet may be experiencing. Do not hesitate to contact us at (416) 351-1212 or click the button below to get an appointment.
-Dr. Sarah Wright
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses (WHO: World Health Organization)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#animals (CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
https://www.oie.int/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/ (OIE: World Organization for Animal Health)
https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/COVID-19_WSAVA-Advisory-Document-Feb-29-2020.pdf (World Small Animal Veterinary Association)