Every day confirmed coronavirus cases grow exponentially. As of March 22nd, 2020, the John Hopkins’ Center for Systems Science and Engineering’s (CSSE) Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map notes that over 316,000 coronavirus cases exist. That’s nearly double the confirmed cases reported just the week before. This global pandemic has stretched across the globe to every continent except Antarctica and impacted the daily lives of billions of people. But what is it doing to dogs?
If you’re wondering if your dog can contract the novel coronavirus, then you can put that worry to rest. Current research does not indicate that dogs can contract coronavirus from humans. While research has yet to prove that dogs can contract coronavirus from humans, it’s always important to take precautionary measures to reduce spread. Here are some essential factors to consider for you and your dogs and COVID-19 preventative measures to take:
1. What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a variety of diseases and infections in humans and animals, such as respiratory issues, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Several types of coronaviruses can impact dogs, such as canine coronavirus, canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), and canine enteric coronaviruses. Humans can get coronaviruses, such as the coronavirus that causes the common cold and the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Scientists believe COVID-19 originated from a live animal wet market in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province after receiving several confirmed cases in late 2019 linked to the market. Some scientists believe that this virus may have even originated from bats and mutated, jumping to humans. COVID-19 is highly contagious, and often people do not experience symptoms for as much as five days. This leaves plenty of time for carriers of the virus to pass it along to others unknowingly. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, and a fever. But your symptoms can also get as severe as pneumonia and even death.
The virus can spread various ways, including via airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing. A January 2020 study by Zhang et al. also suggests that the digestive system may also be a potential path of transmission for the novel coronavirus as the study found the virus on samples of patients’ stool. However, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC)notes that while researchers have found the virus in some patients’ feces, scientists still don’t know if the virus detected in feces is infectious. Another possible way to get coronavirus is by touching contaminated surfaces. As human-to-human contact is the most common way to contract the novel virus, it’s not uncommon to wonder, “can my dog get coronavirus?”.
2. Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
If you’re wondering “can dogs get coronavirus,” there is good news that may ease your worries. While dogs can get various types of coronaviruses, scientists have yet to determine if dogs can contract the novel coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there is a lack of evidence to support the idea that pets can transmit COVID-19, including dogs. There are known cases of dogs who have tested positive for COVID-19, including two dogs in Hong Kong: a German Shepherd and a 17-year-old Pomeranian. Officials quarantined both dogs after they and their owners tested positive for COVID-19. However, the Pomeranian passed away after finally testing negative and returning home to the owner. The cause of death is unknown. Yet, the CDC) notes that it needs more research to determine the risks COVID-19 imposes on pets as there are no reports in the United States of animals with COVID-19. At this time, no known evidence proves dogs can contract the novel coronavirus from humans or that pets can pass it to humans.
3. Can Dogs Pass Coronavirus to Humans?
To date, research does not support COVID-19 as a zoonotic disease that passes from your pets to humans. So, you don’t have to worry about getting the novel coronavirus from your dog. However, it’s still critical to consider the risks and scenarios where you can contract the coronavirus when it comes to your pet. One crucial factor to consider is how long the virus can survive on different surfaces. A March 2020 New England Journal of Medicine study found that COVID-19 can live up to three days on surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic. That means if you are handling your dog’s plastic leash after another person who may have had direct contact with the virus, you have the potential for also contracting COVID-19.
The New England Journal of Medicine study also goes on to note that the virus has a lifespan of up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces and up to four hours on copper. What is not known is whether or not COVID-19 can survive on animal fur and whether or not it can survive long enough to transfer from companion pets to their owners. Still, scientists believe you are less likely to get the novel coronavirus from your pet’s fur if at all compared to getting it from another person. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)VMA, you’re less likely to get the novel coronavirus from your dog’s fur than from a countertop because pet fur is porous. Porous surfaces like pet fur can trap viruses, which makes it harder to get a virus just from touching the surface compared to a non-porous surface like a doorknob.
4. What Precautions Should Dog Owners Take?
Although it’s unlikely you can contract COVID-19 from your pet, there are still preventative measures you’ll want to take. The CDC recommends practicing good pet hygiene and regularly washing your hands post-waste-, food-, and supply- handling. The AVMA also suggests regularly washing your dog’s bowls and bedding as well as grooming your pet. Here are a few more precautions worth taking:
- Prioritize washing your hands. Soap and water is an effective combination for reducing the transmission of COVID-19. That’s because soap molecules are strong enough to break down the fat and other proteins that encase the novel coronavirus’ genetic material. So, it’s crucial to prioritize washing your hands.
- Wash your hands like a surgeon. To effectively wash your hands, wash them the way surgeons do: spend at least a total time of 20 seconds washing your hands with soap and water. You’ll also want to focus on keeping your nails clean by removing any dirt from under your nail bed. Also, focus on cleaning your fingertips and thumbs thoroughly. Interlock your fingers as you wash, and don’t forget to scrub the back of your hands.
- Use hand sanitizer, too. If soap is not an option, the next best way to clean your hands is by using a hand sanitizerthat contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Since alcohol typically kills most germs like E. coli and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), it’s essential to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Like soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are useful for breaking down the envelope protein that protects and helps coronaviruses to multiply and survive. However, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has less than 60 percent alcohol may only reduce the growth of viral, bacterial, and fungal germs rather than just killing them. It’s also still important to know that hand sanitizer doesn’t remove all germs, either. But it’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer on you when you walk your dog. The correct way to use hand sanitizer involves spreading the hand sanitizer all over your hands and fingers and rubbing the solution until it dries.
- Wipe down surfaces. Use pet-safe disinfectant wipes or sprays to clean frequent touchpoints, such as your dog’s leash handle, doorknobs, and tabletops. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of disinfectants that meets the government agency’s standards for use against the novel coronavirus that you can reference.
- Avoid touching your face. Your eyes, nose, and mouth are accessible places for any virus to enter, including the novel coronavirus. So, it’s essential to avoid touching your face when possible.
- Boost your immune system and your dog’s, too. Research shows that individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for more severe symptoms and even death from the novel coronavirus. Some people who are at high risk of complications when sick with COVID-19 include individuals with diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. If you’re 65 and older, you are also at higher risk for severe complications, should you get sick with COVID-19. So, it’s crucial to practice fortifying your immune system with nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin D. It’s a good idea to help boost your dog’s health, too. You can opt for dog supplements, such as probiotics and digestive supplements. Exercise is also vital for your dog’s health, so ensure he’s getting an adequate amount based on his age, size, and breed.
- Call your vet. If you have any questions about your dog’s health, reach out to your veterinarian. It’s also a good idea to keep your dog up-to-date with her shots and medications, including preventative medicines like flea and tick medication.
5. What If You’re Sick?
If you’re sick with COVID-19, you must isolate yourself from other people as no cure or vaccine exists. The first step you want to take after consulting a medical professional about your condition is to make arrangements for someone to take care of your pet as you work through recovery. While some experts believe it is safe to have your pet around during your self-isolation phase, scientists still don’t know if pets can get COVID-19 from their owners or vice versa. It is highly unlikely, yet if you want to take extra safety measures, then it’s best to practice social distancing from your dog. Consider making these measures if you become sick with COVID-19:
- Don’t abandon your dog (get help). Don’t return your dog to a shelter or leave her. It’s possible to keep and care for your dog even if you have the disease. Reach out and get some extra help from a friend or family member. They can help bathe your pet if you think you may have petted and potentially exposed your dog to the virus. Let a neighbor or co-worker help take care of your dog, whether that means taking her for walks, refilling her food and water bowls, or teaching her a new trick.
- Reduce contact with your dog. If family or friends aren’t an option, it’s still essential to take extra safety measures. That’s because any animal has the potential to pass germs to you that can make you sick, including your dog. Wear a face mask when available and avoid sharing your food with your dog.
- No snuggle sessions. If you’re sick, it’s not a good idea to snuggle up with your dog in bed. You’ll also want to avoid having your dog lick your face or hands since scientists need to do more studies to determine how the novel coronavirus impacts dogs and other animals. It’s also ideal to stay as far as six feet away from your pet since viral air droplets can travel up to six feet when you sneeze.
Understanding how to protect yourself and your dog from COVID-19 calls for understanding the basics of the novel coronavirus. It’s also important to know what to do should you get sick and the various steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 or spreading it to others. By following the tips mentioned here, you can help flatten the curve of increasing cases of COVID-19 and further protect your dog in the process.