Covid-19: Advice For Pet Owners

The recent reports of a dog in Hong Kong testing ‘weakly positive’ to the currently circulating Coronavirus (Covid-19) has caused some concern among pet owners and so we asked Dick White Referrals for their opinion as to whether the disease can be transmitted to, or from, our pets.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the current spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a result of human to human transmission, either between people in close contact with one another, via respiratory droplets produced by coughs and sneezes, or by touching a surface or object that has been in contact with the virus. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can become a source of infection in other animals or people.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which affect people and others cause illness in animals. Neither canine alphacoronavirus, which can cause mild diarrhoea in dogs, nor feline coronavirus, which can cause feline infectious peritonitis in cats, have been associated with the current disease outbreak.

Transmission of coronaviruses between species has been recorded in the past but it is extremely rare and, even though the virus responsible for the current outbreak may have originated in wildlife, scientists believe that it is very unlikely to jump to another species in such a short space of time.

In February, samples taken from the mouth and nose of a dog in Hong Kong did test weakly positive to the current virus. However, a subsequent blood sample taken during the quarantine period was tested and the result was negative. The dog had been in close contact with an infected person who was likely to have been shedding large quantities of the virus. It is likely, therefore, that the dog was acting as a ‘fomite’, ie the virus was present on the dog through environmental contamination, in the same way as it might be on a door handle or clothes. This situation is not unusual; during the SARS outbreak in 2003, for example, a small number of cats and dogs tested positive for the virus. However, they did not transmit the virus either to other animals of the same species, or to people.

Therefore, it is important that we exercise the same precautions with pets as with other contacts, washing our hands regularly with soap and water after touching them, not least because they can spread bacteria such as E.coli or salmonella. If a pet owner already has Covid-19, it is wise for them to restrict contact with the pet and, when practical, arrange for someone else to care for the animal. If, in these circumstances, a pet needs veterinary attention for any reason, the veterinary clinic should be contacted initially by telephone or email and they will advise on the correct procedure.

Nobody who has tested positive for the virus, or is showing symptoms, should take their pet to the vets without notifying them first. Veterinary practices will have guidelines in place and it is important that their advice is strictly followed

The procedure that has been introduced at Dick White Referrals, can be seen at: