By Veterinarian Kate Kuzminski, GDB’s Medical Director
It seems like it is a good time for an update on the virus causing COVID-19 and dogs. We have learned a lot more about this topic over the past four months, and thankfully to date, it’s good news so far.
The first U.S. dog confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) was actually just identified in early June in New York. This dog, one of two German Shepherds in a home with a COVID-19 positive(+) human, not only was positive for the virus, but also tested positive for antibodies to the virus, which confirmed a true systemic infection.
We learned back in March that humans can transmit the virus to dogs, so this was not surprising. What is unique, however, is that one of the dogs was showing respiratory signs. We don’t know if the signs were truly due to infection with SARS-CoV-2 or due to an underlying condition. Evidence to date is that dogs can get infected, but they typically don’t get sick, so this is something potentially new. The second dog in the home was also infected but did not show signs of illness. Both dogs are doing fine apparently. And in case anyone is wondering about Winston the pug that we thought was the first dog in the U.S. to be infected back in April… it turns out that while he tested positive for the presence of virus fragments, he was not actually infected with it.
While each individual case is interesting, I think it is important to have some perspective. We have more than 10 million human cases of COVID-19 in the world and are noting only a handful of dogs testing positive for this coronavirus, with even fewer being truly infected. We know that a number of cases of human-to-animal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 have occurred in cats and mink, but the dog seems less susceptible.
Here’s a review of what we know about the SARS-CoV-2 and dogs:
- To date, dogs appear to have a very low risk of becoming infected or sick with SARS-CoV-2.
- There is no evidence at this time that indicates a dog can transmit the virus to other dogs or back to humans. Until we see how this is all going to play out, the recommendation remains that social distancing is for people and dogs. Like our human family members, our dogs should not be interacting with people outside the household. It is recommended that we avoid dog parks and do not allow strangers to pet our dogs.
- Fur appears to be an insignificant route for virus transmission. We know that the virus can live on smooth surfaces for a period of time, but it does not survive on porous surfaces well (like fur).
- Dogs from COVID-19+ homes should stay with their family in the home. Individuals with COVID-19 should be isolated from other people and animals within the home, and care and feeding of the dog should be done by someone who is healthy. If someone with COVID-19 must care for their dog, wearing a face covering and washing hands before and after is recommended. Let’s do what we can to keep all of our family members safe.
- As is standard when working with dogs, it remains important to always wash your hands after handling and feeding dogs.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is committed to ensuring that our dogs and puppies receive state of the art care from a team of full-time veterinarians and technicians. To learn more about our services, including Veterinary Financial Assistance for alumni, visit our Veterinary Services page.