A new virus called Covid-19 is making headlines around the world. People in multiple countries have been infected, and many places are taking measures to try and stop the spread of this contagious virus. But what about our furry companions? Can dogs get coronavirus? Can they pass that infection on?
Can dogs get coronavirus?
Fortunately, there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be shared between people and our dogs, cats, or other pets. Of the many worries that a new virus can bring up, you can set aside this particular worry.
That isn’t to say, however, that a dog that’s living with someone infected can’t carry the virus on their fur or elsewhere on their body. It only means that it looks like this particular coronavirus can’t actively infect your dog and make them sick.
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 pets.
What is a coronavirus? It’s more prevalent than you think.
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 specialised on a single type of animal, including dogs (canine coronaviruses) and cats (feline coronaviruses).
How dangerous is the new coronavirus?
To date, the cases of Covid-19 that have been investigated have ranged from mild illness to people being severely ill and dying.
The related viruses SARS and MERS both caused severe illness in people, and the behaviour of those viruses is helping public health researchers to predict the future behaviour of Covid-19.
For some perspective, the flu (which is not in the coronavirus family) is more dangerous and deadly than coronavirus. According to the University of Oxford’s Oxford Vaccine Group, it is estimated that in the UK an average of 600 people a year die from complications of flu. In some years it is estimated that this can rise to over 10,000 deaths (see for example this UK study from 2013, which estimated over 13,000 deaths resulting from flu in 2008-09).
What are the symptoms of Covid-19 in humans?
According to the WHO patients with Covid-19 have experienced mild to severe respiratory symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US have stated, “CDC believes at this time that symptoms of Covid-19 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 Covid-19 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 from another intermediate animal 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 Covid-19, 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 Covid-19 coronavirus?
Not that we know of. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) the route of transmission of Covid-19 appears to be from human to human. There are no documented cases of dogs, cats, or any other domestic animals getting Covid-19 or transmitting it to people.
“To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases, it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus. 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.”
Can dogs give humans the coronavirus?
As far as we know, dogs do not become infected with Covid-19 or spread the virus to people or other animals through normal means. 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, salmonella, and norovirus (aka stomach flu), but there is no evidence that Covid-19 can move between people and our pets.
That said, a dog can become a passive carrier simply by having the virus on their fur. They aren’t sickened by the virus and aren’t propagating more of it, but a study on coronaviruses does state that some viruses can last up to 9 days on an inanimate object. (Obviously that would be for a shorter period of time on a living creature, but there are no current studies to reference for that particular scenario.)
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.
What are the symptoms of the Covid-19 coronavirus in dogs?
Dogs cannot get the Covid-19 coronavirus, 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. That said, because Covid-19 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 Covid-19, 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 coronavirus”: CCoV I, CCoV II, and CRCoV (canine respiratory coronavirus). These viruses are in the same family as Covid-19, 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 do 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.
Still worried? Here’s the lowdown on canine coronaviruses
There are three types of canine coronaviruses known to veterinary science. Two very similar viruses, CCoV types I and II, cause diarrhoea. The third canine coronavirus, CRCoV, causes respiratory problems; it is considered part of the “kennel cough complex” of respiratory infections.
In a 2006 study, 36% of UK dogs (and 55% of North American dogs) tested had 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 diarrhoea strains, spread from one dog to another through saliva and faeces. So if your dog likes to eat poop, he’s more likely to get exposed. The virus can remain active in dog faeces 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 signs of canine coronavirus infection in dogs include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Acute diarrhoea
- Yellow to orange diarrhoea 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.
Dogs with these risk factors are more likely to get CCoV:
- Dogs younger than 6 weeks
- Dogs that come from shelters, rescue centres, 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