Can dogs get the Coronavirus?

March 11, 2020

As of March 9th, about 3,800 people have died after being infected with COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. In the US, over 500 people have been diagnosed with the virus, and the economy is spiking and crashing like a bouncing basketball in response, ever since the outbreak began. All of these statistics and developments are tragic, but there is one issue TIME magazine explored that could be even more galling. This March 5th article, written by Hillary Leung, poses the question: Can dogs catch the coronavirus?

In light of the recent case of a coronavirus patient’s dog testing positive for the virus in China, there has been an outbreak of anxiety by pet-owners and animal-welfare advocates. Though the test’s result has been met with skepticism, there have been instances of people in China and other highly infected countries euthanizing their pets over concern they could carry and transmit the virus to their owners. 

The Agriculture Department in Hong Kong reportedly tested the dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, two more times after their initial finding. Both tests came back positive for coronavirus as well. Authorities plan on doing more tests in the near future to determine for sure whether the dog is actually sick or if the virus is sitting on the dog’s body as it would on an inanimate object. For past disease outbreaks such as SARS in 2003, pets similarly tested positive for the virus, but it was unconfirmed whether the animals were truly infected or simply contaminated. For both COVID-19 and SARS, it is important to note, there is no evidence that pets can spread the viruses to humans, infected or not. 

The silver lining, whatever the truth of the matter, is that the virus does not seem to be a serious danger to pets’ health. “It only worries me in the sense that people panic and act irrationally, in the same way that people rushed out and stocked up on toilet paper,” says Sally Andersen, the founder of Hong Kong Dog Rescue and an advocate speaking out against the fear-based abandonment and culling of animals. 

If humans can survive this pandemic, experts seem to conclude, our dogs certainly can too. We just have to beware of the even more contagious virus: stupidity. 

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