As we continue to make our way through these very unique times, it's easy to get startled by headlines, especially if those headlines are being used to drive traffic to a website. Early on Thursday (March 19, 2020), the following blog post caught my eye: Another Positive Dog: COVID-19 Update. Thankfully, this is a site that I trust and I knew the information would be as complete as possible and not subject to speculation.
Most of us were aware of the 17 year old Pomeranian who first captured world attention as nasal swabs from him showed evidence of the novel coronavirus on 5 separate occasions. We followed his progress here and sadly, the little guy passed away just a few days after being reunited with his owner. While a necropsy (that's an animal autopsy) was not performed, experts do NOT believe COVID-19 was the cause of his death.
Then, reports came out from Hong Kong about a second dog testing positive. This pup is a 2-year-old German Shepherd and actually has a housemate, a 4-year-old mixed breed dog, who has yet to test positive. Again, the tests were the oral/nasal swabs looking for evidence of the virus itself. Both dogs are quarantined and, per the story, there are an additional 4 cats (presumably from other owners) quarantined as well.
While it's easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, we still don't have any strong evidence that (1) COVID-19 causes disease in our pets or (2) that COVID-19 can be transmitted from pet to pet OR pet to owner. The bottom line is that we just don't have enough information, but that is not a reason to become alarmed. Veterinary experts will be watching this closely and we do have the ability to test for the SARS CoV-2 virus (this is the virus that causes COVID-19). A recent announcement from a large diagnostic companion animal laboratory system stated that "no positive results for SARS CoV-2 in pets to date" here in North America. UPDATE 3-27-20: A press release from Hong Kong states that the original dog, the Pomeranian, was producing antibodies to the virus. However, it further states that 17 dogs and 8 cats from known infected households have been tested and only the Pom and the Shepherd mentioned above have tested positive.
A big part of what our public health officials are trying to drill into us is really basic hygiene (WASH YOUR HANDS) and the same holds true here. Wash your hands after playing with your pets. If you are sick, don't snuggle with your pet . . . avoid sneezing or coughing on your pet and don't share food. Allow someone else to provide care for and
interact with your pets if you are feeling unwell. If you test positive for COVID-19, keep your pets from interacting with other pets.
Finally, as we pointed out in another posting, routine care for your pets, including elective surgeries, is taking aback seat to more pressing issues during this time. Most veterinary hospitals have opted to talk to clients via the phone, outside at the car-side, or via telemedicine. Please be patient with your veterinary teams . . . the back and forth of car-side service might take a little longer than you are used to.
What are you seeing from your veterinarian's office?