This article was inspired by the question of a little girl asked her father who is a doctor, “What happens if somebody with the virus sneezes on my dog, can dogs get coronavirus ?” The truth is, dogs can catch COVID-19, but the results of the infection are very different from (and far less severe) than the results of the infection in people.
Dogs (and cats) can catch the virus off their infected owners. There is no evidence that shows animals can pass it to their humans.
This article will tell you what you need to keep your dog safe from coronaviruses. This article has been updated as new data has emerged of an additional case in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong.
It will tell you what you need to know about how to make sure you don’t spread the virus to your dog and your dog’s coat.
Not All Coronaviruses Are Alike
Veterinary medicine actually has a lot of experience with coronavirus infections in dogs. Canine coronavirus is an infection that has been around for many years.
It is highly infectious and most often caught by puppies. Puppies catch coronavirus when they eat poop from an infected dog. They have several days of intense abdominal discomfort and diarrhea and then get better on their own. There’s even a vaccine for canine coronavirus.
The family of coronaviruses includes not just canine coronavirus but also diseases that attack humans such as SARS, MERS, and the current epidemic COVID-19. Dogs (and cats) do not get sick from SARS or MERS and do not transmit them to people. But COVID-19 behaves slightly differently in dogs.
Known Cases of COVID-19 in Dogs
We’re early in the course of the COVID-19 epidemic and the facts could change as testing becomes more widely available. This article was originally written on the 16 March 2020. At the time, there was only one confirmed case in the entire world of a dog’s catching this latest coronavirus from its infected owner. A Pomeranian owned by a woman infected with the virus in Hong Kong was tested and found to have a “weak” case of the infection.
On February 28, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department announced that they had run tests on the dog, and they could not tell whether the dog had actually been infected or it had just picked up traces of the virus by inhaling saliva or mucus shed by the owner.
The dog was also placed in quarantine and public health officials repeated the test. The second time they ran the test they found enough copies of the virus to diagnosis the dog as having a “mild” respiratory infection.
According to the South China Morning Post, it has been confirmed by Hong Kong’s animal welfare authority (19 of March 2020) that a 2-year-old German Shepard has tested positive for Covid-19.
The German Shepard was living with a person diagnosed with Covid-19, which further suggests owners can pass it to their pets, not the other way around
Other coronaviruses attack the canine digestive tract, whereas COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract.
So, what do owners need to do to protect their dogs against COVID-19?
The Most Important Protection for Your Dog Against COVID-19
There have not been any documented cases of people who got COVID-19 from their dogs. There have been 2 documented cases of dogs who got COVID-19 from their owners. The most important thing any dog owner can do to protect the pets from the virus is to avoid getting infected themselves. And if you have to be quarantined, your dog will have to be quarantined, too.
You probably already have an overload of information about how to avoid your own infection with the virus. But here is what you need to know to protect your dog:
- You should wash your hands before you pet your dog for your dog’s protection.
- Expensive hand sanitizers are not necessary. Soap and water are enough to break down the protective fatty coat that helps the virus float through the air and survive on surfaces. Simple hand soap or detergent applied to your hands before your rub and rinse under warm water is enough. Wash your hands for 15 seconds, long enough to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice.
- Unless you have tested negative for the coronavirus, avoid slurping and kisses. Your dog may be frustrated, and maybe you will be, too, but this is not a good time for mouth-to-pet contact.
- Muzzles don’t really protect against coronavirus. If your dog doesn’t ordinarily need a muzzle, she does not need one now.
- Daily walks are good for your dog and good for you. You may need to wear a mask when you go out, but unless public health officials tell you otherwise (and this is highly unlikely), your dog does not. Don’t worry about dog-to-dog transmission of the virus. Dogs generally don’t greet each other by nose-to-nose contact and if they do, the risk is minimal.
- Help your dog keep up his vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps the immune system fight viral infections. Humans can make their own vitamin D, but dogs need to get it from food, particularly liver, egg yolks, and fish.
And if someone known to have COVID-19 coughs or sneezes on your dog, don’t panic. The best thing to do would be to put on a mask and give your dog a warm, soapy bath and rinse. This isn’t to protect your dog. It’s to protect the next person who pets your dog. If you can’t give your dog a bath, at least be careful to wash your hands both before and after you pet him.
To Answer Your Question "Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?"
Dogs can contract COVID-19 from their humans. While pets can become infected, there is no evidence to suggest they will be caught up in the pandemic and spread.
The risk can be lowered by keeping yourself healthy and making sure to keep washing your hands.
Look after yourself and your pets and stay safe!