Can Dogs Get the Coronavirus? What Owners Need to Know

CARING FOR YOUR DOG | By Emilie Bess

Can Dogs Get the Coronavirus? What Owners Need to Know

  •  Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

A new virus called 2019-nCoV is making headlines around the world. As of today, 7,711 cases have been reported in China, including 170 deaths, and 5 cases have been reported in the US with no fatalities.

Can my dog get the coronavirus?

Fortunately, there is no evidence that 2019-nCoV can be shared between people and our dogs, cats, or other companion animals. Of the many worries that a new virus can bring up, you can set aside this particular worry.

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Here at Rover, we want to make sure that you have up-to-date information about this new infectious disease and what it means for you and your companion animals.

Am I at risk for 2019-nCoV coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that you are only at risk of infection if you have travelled to China in the last 14 days or you have been in close contact with someone who has. If so, and you develop respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, contact your health provider for assistance.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) belong to a large family of about 40 viruses that are named for their crown-shaped structure. Seven of these varieties can infect humans. We have all had a coronavirus infection in our lives—these viruses cause illnesses that range from mild (the common cold, intestinal upset) to severe (SARS, MERS). Some coronaviruses are specialized on a single type of animal, including dogs (canine coronaviruses) and cats (feline coronaviruses).

IMAGE VIA CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION’S PUBLIC HEALTH IMAGE LIBRARY

How dangerous is the new coronavirus?

To date, the cases of 2019-nCoV that have been investigated have ranged from mild illness to people being severely ill and dying. “The complete clinical picture with regard to 2019-nCoV is still not fully clear,” the CDC explains,  The related viruses SARS and MERS both caused severe illness in people, and the behavior of those viruses is helping public health researchers to predict the future behavior of 2019-nCoV.

For some perspective, the flu (which is not in the coronavirus family) is more dangerous and deadly than coronavirus. The CDC reports that this year in the US, approximately 15 million people have gotten the flu, leading to more than 8,000 deaths.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus in humans?

According to the CDC, patients with 2019-nCoV have experienced mild to severe respiratory symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

On the CDC website, they explain, “CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.”

What does it mean that the virus is new?

The virus 2019-nCoV is considered new because it had not been identified in humans (or any other species) prior to December 2019. The virus was identified after several people in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China showed symptoms of respiratory illness. Public health researchers have concluded that the source of the new virus is bats, and that it was able to jump from its bat host to a human host in a host shift event.

Shifting between animal hosts is typical of coronaviruses; they are classified as zoonotic viruses precisely because of this ability to host shift between animals. For example, scientists first proposed that that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. More recent evidence indicates that like 2019-nCoV, both SARS and MERS originated in bats.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet, and may never, infect humans.

Can humans give dogs the 2019-nCoV coronavirus?

Not that we know of. There are no documented cases of dogs, cats, or any other domestic animals getting 2019-nCov or transmitting it to people.

The CDC offers this guidance for people who live with animals:

“While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person. CDC recommends that people traveling to China avoid animals both live and dead, but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.

Do not handle pets or other animals while sick. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with 2019-nCoV, several types of coronaviruses can cause illness in animals and spread between animals and people. Until we know more, avoid contact with animals and wear a facemask if you must be around animals or care for a pet.”

Can dogs give humans the coronavirus?

No. As far as we know, dogs do not become infected with 2019-nCoV or spread the virus to people or other animals. According to my research, there are no examples of any coronaviruses being passed between dogs and people. (Although now old news, SARS, the breakthrough coronavirus of 2003, could be passed between humans and domestic cats in laboratory tests).

Dogs can spread some other viruses to people, including rabies and norovirus (aka stomach flu), but there is no evidence that 2019-nCoV can move between people and our pets.

What are the symptoms of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus in dogs?

Dogs cannot get the 2019-nCoV coronoavirus, as far as scientists know. Based on what we know about other coronaviruses, it is unlikely that the virus is able to infect both dogs and humans. Because 2019-nCoV is so new, there is a lot we don’t know about it yet.

Wait… I heard that dogs CAN get coronavirus.

Dogs cannot get 2019-nCoV, according to current scientific knowledge of the virus.

There are about 40 types of coronavirus and three of these other viruses can infect dogs—these are called Canine Coronaviruses. The “CC” in their names means “canine caronavirus”: CCoV I, CCoV II, and CRCoV (canine respiratory coronavirus). These viruses are in the same family as 2019-nCoV, but the symptoms are generally mild and they do not infect humans.

Facts about CCoV — canine coronavirus

As I mentioned, the family of coronaviruses is very large, and many types of animals have their own specific types of coronaviruses, including cats, rabbits, ferrets, cows, turkeys, and pigs. Dogs are no exception.

Do you need to worry about canine coronavirus?

No. In fact, there is a Canine coronavirus vaccine available, but most vets follow the guidance of American Animal Hospital Association, which does not recommend it for dogs because the virus is so mild. Also, dogs old enough to receive the vaccine may be too old to be at risk of infection, which makes it, ahem, a mutt point.

Still worried? Here’s the scoop on canine coronaviruses

There are three types of canine coronaviruses known to veterinary science. Two very similar viruses, CCoV types I and II, cause diarrhea. The third canine coronavirus, CRCoV, causes respiratory problems; it is considered part of the “kennel cough complex” of respiratory infections.

More than 50% of dogs tested in US studies have antibodies to CRCoV, which indicates that they were exposed to the virus earlier in their lives. There is no vaccine for CRCoV, which spreads through saliva and sneezes like the common cold. The best prevention is to vaccinate your dog for other respiratory infections in order to avoid co-infection, and to isolate dogs with kennel cough until symptoms subside.

CCoV types I and II, the diarrhea strains, spread from one dog to another through saliva and feces. So if your dog has a taste for turd treats, he’s more likely to get exposed.  The virus can remain active in dog feces for long periods, particularly when frozen outdoors.

But CCoV is usually very mild and your dog may not show any symptoms at all. Most dogs that get CCoV are younger than 6 weeks of age, and the symptoms clear up on their own with no special treatment.

However, if you have puppies under 6 weeks of age, ask your vet for recommendations to keep your pups from coming into contact with CCoV. The virus can be dangerous when it co-occurs with parvovirus and other infections, and an extremely rare strain of CCoV was recently found to be fatal in puppies that were housed in high-density kennels.

How will I know if my dog has CCoV?

If your dog is older than six weeks, its very unlikely (possibly even unprecedented) that she will become infected with CCoV.

Puppies exposed to the virus develop symptoms 3-5 days after exposure.

The Merck Veterinary Manual lists these signs of canine coronavirus infection in dogs:

  • Depression
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Acute diarrhea
  • Yellow to orange diarrhea varying from soft to watery (may also contain blood)
  • Fever (occasionally)

Because the virus is highly contagious, puppies that are in frequent contact will other dogs are at the highest risk for infection. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual dogs with these risk factors are more likely to get CCoV:

  • Dogs younger than 6 weeks
  • Dogs that come from shelters, rescue centers, breeding kennels, or pet stores
  • Boarding at a kennel or doggie daycare
  • Visiting groomers, dog parks, or engaging with other dogs on a daily basis
  • Dogs that live in multiple pet homes

More on dog health

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