With the COVID-19 pandemic running through the world, including New Zealand’s own current outbreak, it’s hard to sort the facts from myths. We are bombarded with information daily, and not always from trusted sources. Understandably, people are anxious about the safety of their loved ones, and this includes our pets. Given the current understanding of the virus’s origin, it makes sense to question if our dogs could be a risk to us.
People want to know; could my dog spread COVID-19 to myself or my family?
The answer is no. With some caveats.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised that so far with the information we have available there is no reason to believe domestic pets can spread the virus. But, there is a but. Although there is no known transmission from pets, cases have occurred where dogs and cats (both domestic and tigers) have contracted COVID-19 Some animals such as cats and ferrets have shown transmission between their own species in controlled experimental conditions, with ferrets being particularly susceptible. Minks in Mink farms have also shown to transmit between themselves. It’s believed these animals testing positive became infected through contact with COVID-positive people.
So the reality is, while unlikely, you are the risk to your dog, not the other way around. However, opinions differ slightly. The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) has said Kiwi vets are following the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s advice, which states there is "no evidence" pets can be infected with or spread COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S and the WHO both belief based on current information that there may be some risk to your pets and steps can be taken to ensure their safety.
So what can you do?
- If you have COVID-19 or are at high risk, stay away from the companion and other animals.
- If you are sick and must interact with your dog, wear a face mask to reduce risk.
- As usual, treat pets as you would treat other family members in your household. Keep your dog’s interactions limited to your household.
- If someone within your household becomes sick, keep them isolated from other family members including pets.
- Basic hygiene measures should be followed. Handwashing after handling your dog, their food, and their belongings. Avoid licking, kissing or sharing food (easier said than done!) Hand washing is always recommended after interacting with your pets to reduce risk of more common bacteria like e.coli and salmonella.
Overall it seems the relevant organizations agree the risk of COVID-19 is largely only person to person. The situation continues to evolve worldwide and new information continues to come to light. For now, the risk to your dog is considered low, which is good news.