Pet Owners Should Not Fear Their Dogs Getting the COVID-19

Numerous photos of dogs wearing face masks amid coronavirus fears were spotted all over social media, ​and some people starting asking whether their pets could get infected with the pathogen.

According to many veterinary and health organizations, it is not necessary for pet owners to fear when it comes to the novel COVID-19, because there is no sign yet that dogs are prone to catch the virus that has contaminated tens of thousands of people since it appeared in December 2019.

COVID-19 Cannot Infect Canines

The World Health Organization (WHO) has uploaded a “myth buster” ​post on their website detailing information about domestic animals and the pathogen, which noted that there are no cases of the COVID-19 found in pets.

“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus,” the post reads.

WHO said, however, that pet owners should still be attentive with hand washing and other preventive actions. An advisory document uploaded by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) said that there is no proof that pets could be a ‘source of infection.’

Over 66,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected until now, with more than 1,500 deaths, mainly in Wuhan, China

Scientists and Ontario Veterinary College professor Scott Weese stated that while there is no requirement for more analysis into the pathogen’s probable effect on domestic animals, ‘the risks are really low,’ more so in Canada.

“So if someone has coronavirus, we want them to stay away from animals, so there’s nothing to worry about,” he said, adding that pets should be kept in isolation if a human in their household is contaminated with the virus. “The big thing is, you know, we’re taking precautions just because we like to be proactive, and it’s better to be proactive (than) try to do damage control,” he added.

However, he said that burdening your dog with a mask won’t have any impact. 

The Novel Coronavirus is a Beta Pathogen

In a blog post, he added that one of his primary issues is that excessively afraid people could put down healthy domestic animals out of fear of the pet being a potential carrier of the pathogen.

“Knowledge vacuums lead to fear,” he said. “Fear leads to knee jerk decisions, and those often lead to bad outcomes.”

Dogs, however, can get contaminated with other kinds of coronaviruses, more precisely, the ‘canine coronavirus.’ There are a canine respiratory coronavirus and a canine coronavirus condition that affects the intestines. According to VCA Hospitals​​, the latter is carried by other dogs, and the main manifestation of the infection is diarrhea. These infections do not affect humans, and cannot be passed to them.

The term ‘coronavirus’ refers to a line of related pathogens known as ‘coronaviridae,’ including strains specific to animals, and those that cause infections in humans as well. 

“Most coronaviruses are very specific in the range of species they affect,” Weese said. “So we’re hoping (COVID-19) is like that.”

The viruses are split into two categories: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta​. Only the alpha and beta viruses affect mammals, and COVID-19 is a beta coronavirus, as the advisory says. Gamma and delta coronaviruses infect fish and birds only.

Weese added that canine coronavirus and COVID-19 are related in the same way than the novel pathogen is to other coronaviruses found in other types of animals.

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