One of the things that makes COVID-19 particularly scary is that it's brand new. The coronavirus has been around for years, but this particular strain has never been seen before in the medical community. As such, there are a lot of unanswered questions, and things doctors are still learning about how it functions.
For instance, about three months ago, despite one or two dogs testing weakly positive for the virus, the World Health Organization reported it was unlikely they could actually contract or spread COVID-19. We even talked about it on this site. Unfortunately, since then, new information has come to light, which now suggests dogs might not be as safe as previously thought. Here's what you need to know to protect your furry friend.
Coronavirus in Animals
When a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19 in February, experts agreed it was merely because the virus was present on his skin, not because he was infected by it. The consensus was it probably couldn't be passed from humans to animals, or vice versa. However, since then, a few animals have tested positive, such as lions and tigers at the Bronx zoo, as well as housecats.
Now, other dogs have tested positive as well, including in the US. Winston, a two-and-a-half-year-old pug in North Carolina, not only tested positive for COVID-19 last month, but also displayed mild symptoms, such as gagging and loss of appetite. Considering this new information, the CDC is taking a closer look at the possibility of human-to-animal transmission of coronavirus and the potential dangers it presents.
What's the Risk of Infection?
Pugs are thought to be most at risk for contracting COVID-19. They tend to have weak immune systems and are often more susceptible to various health issues than other dog breeds. If your canine companion is generally in good health, his risk of infection is a lot lower.
Likewise, doctors think that the risk of dogs transmitting the virus to humans, or vice versa, is still fairly low. There aren't nearly as many cases of pets contracting COVID-19 as there are human cases, even though it's likely a fair number of human patients owned and had regular contact with dogs while infected.
Protecting Your Pets
Despite the perceived low risk of infection, the CDC still recommends that you take basic precautions to protect your furry friend. Fortunately, those precautions are essentially the same as the ones you use to protect yourself and your human family members.
Practice social distancing. Don't allow your dog around any other dogs from outside your home. Taking him for daily walks is fine, but maintain six feet of distance from other people and animals, and avoid the dog park.
Give him regular baths as well, and clean his paws occasionally with disinfecting wipes (not too often, though, as it can make his paws too dry). If he starts to display symptoms of illness, take him to the vet. And if anyone in your family, human or animal, begins feeling sick, isolate them from the rest of the household, to prevent infection from spreading.
It's still fairly unlikely that your dog will get Coronavirus, but that's no reason not to be cautious. By taking steps to limit the spread of infection, you can keep both you and your dog safe and healthy during this difficult and uncertain time.