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Thursday, July 09, 2020

Explained: Can dogs contract coronavirus?

A pet dog in Hong Kong has tested "weak positive" for coronavirus (COVID-19). However, it has not shown any signs of relevant symptoms of the disease.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 6, 2020 3:07:11 pm
Explained: Can dogs get contract coronavirus? A dog wearing face mask is seen on a street as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Shanghai, China March 2, 2020. (Reuters Photo: Aly Song)

In a first, a pet dog in Hong Kong has tested “weak positive” for coronavirus, according to a press release issued by the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).

On February 26, the AFCD received a referral from the Department of Health about the dog of a patient infected with COVID-19. The AFCD then picked up the dog and sent it to an animal facility in Hong Kong where oral, nasal and rectal samples were taken. While the oral and nasal samples tested “weak positive”, the dog does not have any relevant symptoms. This means the real-time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test that was conducted showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 causing SARS-CoV-2 virus, but the dog did not show any clinical signs of the disease.

Even so, it is not yet known if the dog has been infected with COVID-19 or if it was simply environmental contamination of the dog’s mouth and nose that led to the “weak positive” results. To determine this, repeated tests will be conducted and the dog will be returned to the owner only once the results are negative.

Read | What should you do if you have coronavirus symptoms, travel/contact history?

The AFCD has now urged infected owners to quarantine their mammalian pets for 14 days with the department. As of now, the dog is the only one under quarantine.

Can coronavirus be transmitted from humans to animals?

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the current spread of COVID-19 is human-to-human. There is no evidence to support the theory that companion animals can spread the disease to humans, or that animals such as dogs can become sick from it.

Even so, WOAH recommends that because humans and animals can sometimes share diseases known as zoonotic diseases, it is recommended that people who are infected with COVID-19 avoid close contact with their pets.

“When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food,” it says. Read more on how to handle the coronavirus outbreak

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence yet that companion animals or pets can be infected with COVID-19. “However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans,” the WHO has said.

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