Fact Checker: Can Dogs Catch Coronavirus?

Fact Checker: Can Dogs Catch Coronavirus?

Myths, lies, and old wives’ tales loom large in the outdoor pursuits. Here at MeatEater, we’re dedicated to separating facts from bullsh*t, so we created this series to examine suspect yarns. If there’s a belief, rumor, or long-held assumption you’d like us to fact check, drop us a note at factchecker@themeateater.com. 

Claim
Dogs can contract COVID-19 and transmit the novel coronavirus to humans.

Origin
On February 26, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department tested two dogs whose owners had coronavirus. One dog tested negative, while the other came back “weak positive.” Nasal and oral swabs of the 17-year-old Pomeranian were again taken on February 28, March 2, and March 5 with continued weak positive results. Throughout the process, the dog didn’t show any symptoms or signs of illness.

In wake of this news, parts of China have seen large numbers of dogs and cats abandoned in the streets. Government agencies, like the City of Hongjiang and Urban Construction Administration, announced that they’re killing stray pets in public places “in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease.”

Facts
Last week, the infected dog had its first negative test, indicating that it’s recovering. But the weak positive results show the dog had low levels of SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19. The hound remains in quarantine and will be monitored in the coming weeks.

DNA sequences of the virus show the dog was most likely infected by its owner, making this the first documented case of human-to-dog transmission for COVID-19. Experts from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control agree that dogs are unable to return the favor, though. Currently, there’s no evidence that canines can become sick or transmit the disease to humans or other pets.

“Dogs are not thought to be very good hosts for this virus, based on its genetic structure and what we know about the original SARS,” said J. Scott Weese, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College who studies zoonotic disease, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Takeaway
Although pangolins from a wet market in Wuhan are the suspected source of COVID-19, there’s no indication that animals play a significant role in the transmission of the novel coronavirus. In a news cycle that evolves hourly, however, it’s important to regularly check reputable news sources and practice caution around foreign animals.

Even though man’s best friend likely won’t be affected by the world’s latest pandemic, maybe avoid those open-mouth doggy kisses until things are a bit more under control.

Shop

Land Access Fund Donation
Save this product
MeatEater

A quick and easy way to contribute to our Land Access Fund in an amount of your choosing.

Land Access Fund Nalgene
Save this product
MeatEater

Profits from the sale of this Nalgene will be made as a donation to the Land Access Initiative. Get yours today and support this cause.

Land Access Fund T-Shirt
Save this product
MeatEater

Profits from the sale of this t-shirt will be made as a donation to the Land Access Initiative. Get yours today and support this cause.

American Buffalo Book
Save this product
MeatEater

By Steven Rinella. An adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination.

Get the latest in your inbox
Subscribe to our newsletters to receive regular emails with hand-picked content, gear recommendations, and special deals.
Our picks for the week's best content and gear
For the whitetail obsessed, with Mark Kenyon
Redefining our connection to food, with Danielle Prewett
Your one-stop for everything waterfowl, with Sean Weaver
Get out on the water with the MeatEater Fishing crew
Technical hunting apparel
Purpose-built accessories for hunting and fishing
Quality elk, turkey, waterfowl, and deer calls
Save this article