Reports that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19 don’t mean pet owners need to fear catching the virus from their pets, experts said.
Langley veterinarian Dr. Renee Ferguson warned against over-reacting to news that a dog tested “weakly positive” after being in a home with a person infected with COVID-19.
“I suspect if they had swabbed/tested the person’s sofa, cell phone or appliances they would be positive also,” Ferguson told the Langley Advance Times.
Coronavirus infections like COVID-19 are common in animals and humans, Ferguson explained, and while some strains are “zoonotic,” which means that they can be transmitted between animals and humans, many strains are not.
“I see dog coronavirus and cat coronavirus routinely in routine practice,” Ferguson elaborated.
“These common types I see, are not transmissible to humans.”
She said people should always wash their hands after playing with their pet to prevent the transmission of bacteria and possible parasites, “but catching COVID- 19 from their pet should not be a worry.”
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At the Patti Dale animal shelter operated by the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS), ailing cats and dogs are kept in careful isolation, executive director Jayne Nelson explained.
“We have very strict protocols,” Nelson commented.
As for the risk that COVID-19 could be transmitted to pets, Nelson noted an international organization of veterinarians has declared there is no evidence that pets and other domestic animals are at risk for contracting or spreading the virus.
Nelson noted careful handwashing and other infection control practices are the best way to reduce risk.
“We have to all be mindful to take precautions,” Nelson said.
She hopes that the Hong Kong story won’t provoke people into abandoning their pets.
“I am hopeful that cooler heads will prevail.”
This week, Ferguson treated two dogs for “mild sneezing” attributed to mild cold or seasonal allergies.
Nether the dog or the owners had been traveling.
“The owners are going to keep their dogs quiet and at home, isolated and monitor them as we always tell owners of dogs when we suspect a cold to minimize the spread of possible viruses and help them better recover.”
Ferguson advised that during spring break, dogs socialize more, leading to a new round of colds or upper respiratory infections, commonly called kennel cough.
“I hope that people don’t over-react and assume that it is COVID-19, because it won’t be,” Ferguson said.
In the Hong Kong case, the matter remained under investigation, with Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department saying it will continue to closely monitor the dog, which had shown no symptoms.
“It will only be returned to its owner when the test result is negative,” an AFCD statement said.
There has so far been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus, a statement posted on the World Health Organization website said.