First Dog Tests Positive for Coronavirus in the U.S

Many pet owners have been asking lately if their pet can contract COVID-19. The CDC issued recent guidelines for practicing social distancing between animals and not just people. So far, however, there haven’t been any reports of pets in the U.S. contracting the virus. Until now, that is. According to BuzzFeed, a German Shepherd is the first dog in the U.S. to test positive for the virus. He’s expected to make a full recovery, however, but what about his owners?

Other Dog Had Antibodies

One of them tested positive for COVID-19 and the other was exhibiting symptoms of the virus prior to the Shepherd testing positive, according to the Department of Agriculture . Another dog in the same household was showing no signs of COVID-19, however, he had antibodies to the virus. According to the USDA, currently there isn’t any evidence suggesting that pets are playing any kind of a significant role in the spread of coronavirus.

Dogs Not as Susceptible

Previously, a pug named Winston in N. Carolina was suspected of being infected with COVID-19 but was later found to test negative, according to the New York Times. And, according to the USDA, any risk of animals transmitting the virus to humans is considered low.” Although canines have been reported as being infected with COVID-19 several times during the current pandemic, most notably two of them in Hong Kong, studies have actually been showing that felines as well as ferrets can be infected easily while dogs aren’t as susceptible.

Other Animals Test Positive

However, health officials are urging all pet owners to use caution to avoid infecting their pets. The German Shepherd is joining two cats, one lion, and a tiger, on a USDA animal list of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States, according to the USDA.

Panic in Hong Kong

According to the North American Veterinary Community, a panic took over dog owners recently when tests in China showed a 17-year-old Pom as having “weakly” positive results when tested for COVID-19 . The Pom was quarantined prior to being released, but he died three days later. Another dog in the same household tested negative during the same quarantine period. At the time, it was unfortunate others heard about the Pom and the story exploded overnight on the Internet with worried dog owners showing major concern for their pets.

No Positive Results

The weak positive in that case may not have been a “true positive”. The Pom has tested negative on previous testing occasions and never became ill with the virus. Officials have no way of knowing precisely what caused the Pom’s death in the absence of an autopsy. The fact is, however, that the Pom dog was elderly with a number of underlying health conditions. To put this incident in perspective, officials determined that no evidence currently indicates pets being a source of COVID-19 for humans, nor that the presence of the virus causes the disease in pets. A recent COVID-19 test was conducted involving literally thousands of domestic animals, resulting in no positive results at all. Therefore, the current belief still is that the possibility of pets contracting the COVID-19 is extremely low.

Word From the WHO, CDC, and OIE

According to VetMed at the University of Illinois, no evidence exists yet to show that dogs might or might not contract COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently advises that a lack of evidence suggests that domesticated animals (i.e. pets) could possibly be infected. In addition, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has not uncovered any evidence that dogs could spread the coronavirus or that they could become sick with it, findings that are also consistent with those of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Protect Your Pet

How can you protect your dog or cat if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19? Many pet owners are asking the same question. Since domestic animals are at minimal risk, there really are no specific steps to take for their protection. On the other hand, a slight possibility exists that your pet could be carrying the virus on his fur. If so, then he could become a coronavirus source for other humans. Naturally, this would include friends and family members.

Protect Yourself, Too

Therefore, in order to protect other people and yourself, the CDC recommendation is to restrict any contact with your dog or cat if you happen to be ill with COVID-19 in the very same way that you’re restricting your contact with other individuals. So, pets should practice social distancing just like people although, since they’re animals, you’ll of course have to do that for them. And, when you interact with your pets, be sure that you’re washing your hands well before and after. In addition, wearing a face mask is important for your health and that of your pet.

Facts About Animal Origination

Many people are rather curious about whether COVID-19’s point of origination may have been an animal. Current research does suggest that perhaps horseshoe bats were the reservoir species and that the virus actually originated from them as well. Previous coronavirus (as well as MERS and SARS) outbreaks among humans started with bats and were then passed on via other species, such as palm civets and camels.

Knowledge is Power

It’s quite clear that we still have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and that knowledge could mean the difference between life and death for many people worldwide. It could also put the power back in our hands and help us to help others past this difficult time. In the meantime, social distancing, handwashing, and masks could be our best defense until a vaccine is perfected along with a cure for those already infected. And, as we all spend our stimulus checks and order takeout or delivery, we should say a prayer or two for those people in countries around the world that don’t have the resources that we are so fortunate to enjoy in this country.

Photo via Mark Thiessen / AP

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