Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the Canine Coronavirus (CCV), but this specific novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is believed to not be a threat to dogs.
The CDC says that “while this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person.” The CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, “but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this novel coronavirus.”
What is Canine Coronavirus (CCV)?
A canine coronavirus infection (CCV) is a highly contagious intestinal disease that can be found in dogs all around the world. This particular virus is specific to dogs, both wild and domestic. The coronavirus replicates itself inside the small intestine and is limited to the upper two-thirds of the small intestine and local lymph nodes. A CCV infection is generally considered to be a relatively mild disease with sporadic symptoms, or none at all. But if a CCV infection occurs simultaneously with a viral canine parvovirus infection, or an infection caused by other intestinal (enteric) pathogens, the consequences can be much more serious. There have been some deaths reported in vulnerable puppies.
Symptoms and Types
The symptoms of a CCV infection vary. In adult dogs, the majority of infections will be inapparent, with no symptoms to show. Sometimes, a single instance of vomiting and a few days of explosive diarrhea (liquid, yellow-green or orange) may occur. Fever is typically very rare, while anorexia and depression are more common. Occasionally, an infected dog may also experience some mild respiratory problems. Puppies may exhibit protracted diarrhea and dehydration, and are most at risk of developing serious complications with this virus. Severe enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine) in puppies will occasionally result in death.
This intestinal disease is caused by the canine coronavirus, which is closely related to the feline enteric coronavirus (FIP), an intestinal virus that affects cats. The most common source of a CCV infection is exposure to feces from an infected dog. The viral strands can remain in the body and shed into the feces for up to six months. Stress caused by over-intensive training, over-crowding and generally unsanitary conditions increase a dog’s susceptibility to a CCV infection. Additionally, places and events where dogs gather are the most likely locations for the virus to spread.
Puppies that have been exposed to this infection and are showing symptoms will need the most guarded care. What appears to be a small amount of diarrhea and vomiting can lead to a fatal condition for a defenseless, puppy. Most adult dogs will recover from a CCV infection on their own and without the need for medication. In some cases, diarrhea may continue for up to 12 days, and soft stool for a few weeks. If the infection does cause inflammation of the small intestine (enteritis), respiratory problems, or blood poisoning (septicemia), antibiotics may need to be prescribed. If severe diarrhea and dehydration occur as a result of the infection, the dog may need to be given extra fluid and electrolyte treatment. Once the dog has recovered from the infection, there will usually be no need for further monitoring. But, keep in mind that there may still be remnants of the virus that are being shed in your dog’s feces, potentially placing other dogs at risk.
There is a vaccine available to protect dogs from this virus. It is normally reserved for show dogs and puppies, since they have undeveloped immune systems and are most vulnerable. Because the canine coronavirus is a highly contagious infection, the best prevention for it is to immediately isolate dogs that either exhibit the common symptoms or have been diagnosed with it. It is also important to keep kennels clean and hygienic at all times, to clean after your dog in both public and private spaces, and to protect your dog from coming into contact with other dog’s feces, as much as that is possible.
On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Pet owners are understandably concerned. The American Veterinary Medicine Association has recently addressed these concerns by publishing their answers to some common questions.
Here’s a brief summary:
Did a Dog Test Positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong?
Not exactly. In late February, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) detected low levels of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — in a pet dog. They repeated the test last week and found “weak positive” results for the virus. Hong Kong authorities responded with warnings that residents should not kiss their pets. The infected dog was placed in quarantine, but showed no signs of COVID-19 infection. It tested negative on March 12th.
Can COVID-19 Infect Pets?
While no one is certain, it seems very unlikely. AVMA writes, “Infectious disease experts, as well as the CDC, OIE, and WHO indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people.” They acknowledge, however, that additional tests and investigations are ongoing.
What Precautions Should Pet Owners Take?
The AVMA, WHO, and other health organizations recommend pet owners take a number of precautions to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. These common-sense measures include regular hand washing, social distancing, and proper respiratory hygiene. Pet owners should take particular care to wash their hands after handling their pets, feeding their pets, and handling pet waste.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” the AVMA suggests that anyone who is ill with COVID-19 (or expects they might be) should limit their contact with animals “until more information is known about the virus.” While facemasks are not advised for most individuals, anyone who is symptomatic should wear them around their pets and other people.
Ill pet owners should designate friends or family members as handlers of their pet’s care. AVMA recommends putting together “emergency kits” with several weeks’ worth of pet food and other necessary supplies.
Is Testing Available for Pets in the United States?
Not as of March 12th, but tests and updates to testing capacity are in the works. AVMA expects that more information on availability and submission requirements will become available shortly.
Stay Safe and Calm
The AVMA concludes their FAQ sheet with yet another reminder that pet owners should remain calm. “There is no evidence,” they write, “to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to other people or other pets.” Be sure to identify credible news sources and check in regularly as this situation continues to develop.