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. 

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

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.”

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.

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.


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