Feb 29

Coronavirus COVID 19 and your Pets

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like appearance.  Most common coronaviruses cause mild symptoms of runny nose, sore throat, fever, and cough.  Some can descend deeper into the lungs and cause pneumonia. 

Animals have their own common set of coronaviruses. It is rare but possible for a coronavirus infecting an animal to jump species and infect humans.  Bats have been found to be a reservoir species capable of harboring viruses and contributing to the rare instances of cross-species transfer of viruses.

dog under blanket face peeking out

When there is cross-species transfer the virus will mutate and form a “novel” virus such as COVID 19.

Can COVID 19 infect our pets or can pets be a source of infection to people?

At present, the CDC feels there is no evidence to suggest the virus will infect our dogs and cats.

There is one report of a dog in Hong Kong living with a COVID 19 positive owner who was swabbed from his nasal and oral cavity and tested weakly positive for COVID 19.  There is speculation that the positive may represent environmental contamination and the dog is currently not ill.  However, the situation is rapidly evolving and the dog will be monitored and re-tested.  

All current reports indicate just human-to-human spread. However, ill individuals are advised to avoid contact with pets and wear a mask if they must be around pets.  

We do not expect animals to be a source of infection to humans, but we must be careful.  There is some “predictive evidence” based on the spike proteins of the COVID 19 virus that this virus may use a specific receptor (ACE2) as it’s receptor to initiate illness.  The ACE2 receptor is also present in cats, pigs, and some non-human primates.

Should I vaccinate my dog against canine coronavirus to provide cross-protection?

The canine coronavirus vaccine protects against an enteric form of coronavirus (intestinal) and is not licensed or effective against respiratory coronaviruses. Enteric and respiratory forms of coronaviruses are distinctly different and there is no benefit of cross-protection with vaccination.

Is there going to be a vaccine made available for COVID 19?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for protection against COVID 19 for animals or people.  The World Health Organization estimates there may be a vaccine available by mid 2021.

As more information becomes available, we will be sure to keep you up-to-date on how this virus may or may not affect your animals.

Nicole Cohen

Dr. Cohen received her veterinary degree and completed an internship on the west coast before joining FHA in 2006. Her interests include senior wellness, ultrasonography, opthalmology, endocrinology, and urgent care medicine.

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