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What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name given by the World Health Organization (WHO) to the current highly contagious pneumonia caused by a new virus belonging to the Coronaviridae family, named SARS-CoV-2 by the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee of Taxonomy of viruses.
This disease emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan City of the Hubei Province, China.
History of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndromes caused by Coronaviruses
COVID-19 is not the first Pandemic to be caused by a member of the family Coronavirinae. In fact, not long ago, two other Severe Respiratory Syndromes occurred:
- SARS-CoV in 2002 and 2003 in Guangdong province, China (with Masked Palm Civets as origin of contagion)
- MERS-CoV in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and other border countries (with Dromedary Camels as origin of contagion)
Different types of coronaviruses in relation with animals
• Canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV)
• Canine Enteric coronaviruses (CECoV type I and II)
• Feline coronaviruses (FCoV) causing Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
• Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV)
• Swine enteric coronaviruses infect swine and cause transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV).
• Bovine coronaviruses cause diarrhea in calves, winter dysentery, mild respiratory signs, and decreased milk and meat production in adult cattle
Can Dogs contract COVID-19 disease?
Transmission from Human to dog
Currently, no reports have been released of respiratory disease in pets caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The actual knowledge about COVID-19 suggests that it is a human-specific disease and the transmission from humans to animals has not been reported and nor is it expected in dogs as a result of exposure to their infected owners.
In Hong Kong, a dog living in a household with humans who tested positive for COVID-19, has consistently tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 by PCR.
Another dog from the same location has been reported to have tested weak positive.
No clinical signs of COVID-19 appeared by the time of the positive test. This dog has remained weak positive even after being transferred to a quarantine elsewhere.
This might be the first case of transmission from human to pet with no clinical signs of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Transmission from dog to human
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets are not believed to play a role in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to humans or other animals, nor are there any reports of pet’s infection or clinical disease in the United States till now.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health OIE:
To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a significant a role in spreading the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.
Some examples of animal infections have been reported to the OIE. Further details on these events can be found in the ‘more information’ section. So far, these appear to be isolated cases, and there is no evidence that companion animals are playing a role in the spread of human disease.
Preliminary findings from laboratory studies suggest that, of the animal species investigated so far, cats are the most susceptible species for COVID-19, and cats can be affected by clinical disease. In the laboratory setting cats were able to transmit infection to other cats. Ferrets also appear to be susceptible to infection but less so to disease. In the laboratory setting ferrets were able to transmit infection to other ferrets. Dogs appear to be susceptible to infection but appear to be less affected than ferrets or cats.
Symptoms and diagnosis of Coronavirus Disease
Symptoms of COVID-19
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Tiredness, and
- Dry cough.
Some patients may have some usually mild symptoms that begin gradually such as:
- Aches and pains,
- Nasal congestion,
- Runny nose,
- Sore throat or diarrhea.
Others become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Yet, most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
And unfortunately, around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
Accordingly, people with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
Although SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t seem to have a diect role in causing disease in dogs, other coronaviruses do.
Canine Enteric Coronavirus Disease
This disease’s clinical signs are common to many other digestive affections in dogs which consist essentially in:
- Vomiting, and Diarrhea (within 1 to 3 days of exposure to the virus).
And can manifest different levels of severity from indetectable to mild, or even fatal in some severe cases. Puppies under 12 months are at high risk of infection and can often have both Canine Parvovirus and Canine Coronavirus coinfection at the same time leading to high mortality rates exceeding 80%.
Canine Respiratory Coronavirus Disease
The Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (CRCoV) is one of many germs that contribute to the canine infectious respiratory disease complex (infectious tracheobronchitis) commonly known as “kennel cough”. Its symptoms are mainly those of the common cold.
Feline Coronavirus Disease
The Feline Coronavirus Disease Also known as the Feline Infectious Peritonitis, is caused by several feline coronaviruses (FCoVs).
It is one of the most severe illnesses in cats as it results in an important inflammatory reaction around blood vessels located in different tissues of the cat’s body especially the abdomen, the kidneys and brain. If not taken care of properly and rapidly, the cat is most likely to die.
Should I test my dog for Coronavirus Disease?
Presently, experts do not recommend screening of asymptomatic pets for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because as mentioned above, this virus does not seem to affect animals, which means that dogs and cats presenting with respiratory signs are unlikely to be affected by COVID-19.
Canine coronaviruses tests
Although Canine Coronavirus is not as severe as parvovirus or distemper, dogs should be tested for this disease due to Its high contagion and its worldwide distribution.
Also because of its transmission mode (fecal to oral), many dogs can get infected just by licking or eating other infected dog’s faeces or even drinking contaminated water.
Also, Canine Coronavirus and Canine Parvovirus can infect a dog at the same time which will aggravate the symptoms.
How to test your pet for Coronavirus disease?
- FASTest CCoV Strip – Canine Coronavirus
It is a rapid immunochromatographic test for the detection of Canine Coronavirus Antigen in dog faeces.
- Test-it CORONA/PARVO DOG
This test is a diagnostic kit for detection of both Coronavirus and Parvovirus in dogs. It is designed to detect the antigens of canine Coronavirus and canine Parvovirus in canine faeces.
- The IDEXX RealPCR test for canine respiratory coronavirus
- The IDEXX RealPCR test for the virus causing Feline Infectious Peritonitis
It is important to note that, these tests are specific to various veterinary coronaviruses and do not detect SARS-CoV-2.
Moreover, the coronaviruses detected by these tests do not infect humans.
How to prevent your dog from coronavirus disease?
Are there any vaccines available in the Market right now?
Currently no vaccine is available in the market to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in either humans or animals.
Still, the routine vaccination protocol can prevent your dog from many other serious diseases and accordingly promote a strong immune system, which is much needed to face COVID-19.
So how can you prevent your dog and yourself from COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to stay healthy around your pet, you need to incorporate some healthy habits in your daily routine:
- Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
- Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
- Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
If you test positive to COVID-19, what should you do to protect your Dog?
If you test positive to COVID-19, you are highly recommended to limit your contact with any pets as a precautionary measure, until more data is gathered about this new virus.
This being said if there is no one to take care of your dog for you till you recover, don’t abandon your pet! as it is unlikely, as mentioned before, that your dog could get infected by SARS-CoV-2. Instead, limit your interaction with him and stop the licking, kissing and any other close contact activity you used to have with your dog.
And of course, wash your hands before and after feeding them or cleaning their space.
Treatment and remedies
Right now, there are no treatments or remedies proven to be effective against COVID-19 disease in humans.
Same thing goes for Canine Coronavirus with no specific antiviral medication till now.
Yet it is common in veterinary practices to obtain complete recovery of infected dogs with intense care and enough supportive treatment.
Like all viral affections the only way of treatment is by fighting symptoms:
- Intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea.
- Anti-emetics to stop vomiting
- Antibiotics for bacterial co-infections
- Antipyretics to reduce fever.
Those treatments are listed here only for informational purposes and are by no mean specific or sufficient and should only be administered by your veterinarian, as he’s the only one capable of assessing the actual health condition of your pet.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in certain types of animals.
Coronaviruses that infect animals can become able to infect people, but this is rare.
Human to human transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has been evidenced. Yet, currently there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can get affected by or spread COVID-19.
At the moment no treatment or remedy is available in the market nor is there any vaccine that prevents SARS-CoV-2 infection in both humans and animals.
The best way to protect yourself and your dog from COVID-19 is to avoid being in contact with the virus.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cdc.gov/covid19
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) avma.org/coronavirus
- World Health Organization (WHO) who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
- Novel coronavirus (SARS‑CoV‑2) epidemic: a veterinary perspective 2020; Alessio Lorusso1*, Paolo Calistri1, Antonio Petrini1, Giovanni Savini1 and Nicola Decaro2
- Safety and efﬁcacy of a modiﬁed-live canine coronavirus vaccine in dogs 2003; A. Pratellia,∗, A. Tinellia, N. Decaroa, V. Martellaa, M. Cameroa, M. Tempestaa, M. Martinib, L.E. Carmichaelc, C. Buonavogliaa
- A serological survey of canine respiratory coronavirus in dogs in New Zealand 2019; GD More, M Dunowska, E Acke & NJ Cave
- Canine coronavirus in Australian dogs 2001; MJ NAYLORa, RP MONCKTONb, PR LEHRBACHbc and EM DEANEa
- Coronavirus update, Emerging coronavirus strains and veterinary patients; IDEXX March 2020
What animal did COVID-19 originate from?
According to researchers in Guangzhou, China SARS-CoV-2 (virus responsible for COVID-19) is believed to be originally transmitted to humans from Pangolins “Ant eating mammals” (traditionally used in Chinese medicine).
Yet, according to the CSG (Coronavirus Study Group of the Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses) SARS-CoV-2 has been assigned to an existing species of hundreds of known viruses largely isolated from humans and Bats.
Are there any available tests for COVID-19 in Dogs?
Right now there is no clinical testing for pets in the United States
If I am positive to COVID-19, what should i do to protect my Dog?
If you test positive to COVID-19, the CDC recommends limiting contact with any pets as a precautionary measure until more data is gathered about this new virus.
If there is no one to take care of your dog till you recover, limit your interaction with him and stop the licking, kissing and any other close contact activity you used to have with your dog.
And of course, wash your hands before and after feeding them or cleaning their space.
Is it safe for me to pet my dog?
Yes, absolutely, you can pet your dog with no problem, as long as you don’t feel ill.
Can Dogs get coronavirus from Cats?
According to the CDC, to date there no evidence of pet to human or pet to pet transmission of the virus SARS-CoV-2
Would it be safer to put my dog in a kennel?
At the moment, there is no evidence of contagion in dogs with SARS-CoV-2. Yet it would be preferable to avoid crowded facilities and environments as the risk of infection with other pathogens is relatively high.
Can I walk my dog outside?
You need to refer to your state’s regulation in order to verify if you are allowed to walk your dog outside during this outbreak
Is it safe to hire dog walkers to take my dog out in groups?
Out of an abundance of caution, it is preferable that you limit the interaction of you dog with other animals or humans.
Should my pet wear a face mask in public?
It is absolute nonsense for a dog or a cat to wear a face mask!
Face masks don’t prevent from exposure to the virus.
Should i wear a face mask while petting my Dog?
Wearing a surgical mask won’t prevent you from exposure to the virus. Instead, it should be used to prevent a potentially infected person from spreading the virus to others by coughing, sneezing, or talking.