A few days ago the Hong Kong authorities updated the news about the dog that seems to have contracted a low-grade coronavirus infection, communicating that it is probably a case of a human being who transmitted the disease to the dog.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation of the government said that the dog, which has been tested several times, is still in quarantine but is not sick.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the zoonosis COVID-19, is raging around the world after jumping species probably from a bat, perhaps through another intermediate animal, at some time between five and six months ago in China.
However, according to the World Health Organization, WHO, we do not have to worry about the welfare of our pets or other people’s pets, let alone being infected by them.
Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Organisation for Animal Health have published advice that there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus. “Therefore, there is no justification for taking measures against pets that could compromise their welfare,” said the Animal Health Organization.
“In addition to maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners should not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets,” the Hong Kong government also said. If a family member tested positive for new coronavirus, they might consider quarantining their pets.
Here’s what we know for sure so far.
A patient suffering from COVID-19 in Hong Kong had a dog and the authorities tested his dog. The test showed that the dog had a certain level of virus in his nose and mouth. Since then the dog has been tested several times and is still “weakly positive”. The dog will remain in quarantine, the authorities reported, until his tests are negative.
What does that mean?
Raymond RR Rowland, a veterinarian specializing in pig viruses at Kansas State University, said that so-called weak positives for other viruses often occur in tests on pigs.
“I’ll say what I tell them,” he explained. “Wait and see.”
Even if there was a low-level infection, he said, “That doesn’t mean the animal is infected enough to get sick or spread the virus. It could be a host of the type called “dead end”, it cannot get sick or infect other people or animals. It happens often.
Edward Dubovi, a professor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, who worked with the team that identified dog flu in 2005, said the Hong Kong dog could have a low-level infection, which would come as no great surprise. Humans transmit infections to their pets and other animals very frequently.
“Usually in these situations,” he explained, “you have an initial infection and it doesn’t go anywhere else, it doesn’t get worse, it doesn’t show symptoms and it doesn’t pass on to other members of your species, other animals or humans.
However, stopping the transmission of any virus to animals is always wise, so anyone with COVID-19 should treat their animals as they would their family members, to try to prevent transmission: limit contact, wear a mask, wash their hands often.
Obviously, with dogs, it could be difficult. “My dog has probably licked my hands 19 times since lunchtime,” he concluded smiling.