Can My Dog Be Infected With COVID-19?
I have spent the past several days researching this topic as it is a real concern from millions of dog lovers around the world. Have you asked yourself, “Can my dog be infected with COVID-19?” any time over the past week or so?
Originally, This Possibility Was Denied
However, this has been questioned. There was information posted about a dog residing in Hong Kong documented to be infected with the Coronavirus. The experts involved originally declared the virus to be superficial. It was announced that the virus was not internal, but only on the fur of the animal.
But, More Recently, the AFCD Says Otherwise
According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong, this is not the case. AFCD repo that they have had samples taken from the oral and nasal cavities of a dog test positive. It was a weakly positive result for the novel coronavirus, but positive, nonetheless.
The Dog Has Been Observed in Quarantine
Repeated tests have confirmed that the original testing of the dog’s nasal and oral cavities was accurate. The tests continue to indicate a low-level infection of the coronavirus.
What Do Experts Have To Say About This Repeated Result?
DO NOT PANIC
The WHO (World Health Organization) division for Animal Health, as well as other experts, all agree that this was most probably a case of a human transmitting the virus to the dog.
Currently, There Is Absolutely No Evidence That Your Dog Can Get Sick From COVID-19
An AFCD spokesperson declared that no evidence currently exists that your dog can be a source of COVID=-9 infection. Further, they tell us that dogs cannot become ill because of the virus.
But, To Stay On The Safe Side
It is still recommended by the AFCD for dog owners to be on the safe side when dealing with their dogs. They encourage frequent hand-washing and for dog owners to refrain from kissing their dogs.
However, If YOU Are Infected With Coronavirus
This takes us to a new and higher level of caution. The AFCD makes a much more drastic stand and “Strongly Advises” that anyone infected with the coronavirus quarantine their dog.
There Is A Huge Difference In Being Infected and In Being Sick Due to Covid-19
Both the WHO and the SPCA of Hong Kong insist that there is no evidence of dogs being sick from being infected with Covid-19.
“Members of the public are advised to differentiate that ‘being infected’ does not equal being infectious and capable of spreading the Covid-19 virus,” Hong Kong SPCA said in a statement.
This Is Not The First Time This Fear Has Been Addressed
Back in 2003, nearly 300 people died when there was a SARS outbreak in Hong Kong. Similar fears were abounding at that time. Jane Gray was the Hong Kong SPCA’s chief veterinary surgeon at that time.
Jane informed the world that the strains of Coronavirus that are usually found in either dogs or cats typically do not cause problems with their respiratory systems. She also stated that the chance of getting ill with a coronavirus from your pet was very remote. Remember that SARS is also a Coronavirus.
What Exactly Is COVID-19?
It is a novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.
What On Earth Is A Fomite?
Basically, it is a surface that, when contaminated with an infectious agent, can pass that agent on to a new host. It is documented that coronaviruses are able to live on various surfaces and objects. In the same manner, even if a dog is not infected with a coronavirus, the virus could be found on the dog’s fur.
How Long Can Coronavirus Survive On A Fomite?
At this time, there is some debate as to how long the virus can survive. Experts report everything from 3 hours to 9 days. There are many variables that may determine the outcome for any given circumstance. The type of surface, temperature, and degree of moisture involved all contribute to the time of survival.
The Central Bank of China (on their mainland) is so concerned about this that they are now deep cleaning and destroying cash that may be potentially infected. There are some people who believe that this is associated with a conspiracy to get rid of cash altogether.
The Current Evidence Re COVID-19 and Your Dog
In a letter to CNN as well as the current authorities in Hong Kong, Sheila McClelland, the founder of Hong Kong-based Lifelong Animal Protection Charity (LAP), wrote: “Present evidence suggests that dogs are no more of a risk of spreading (coronavirus) than inanimate objects such as door handles. (a typical fomite)
urthermore, a prominent researcher, Bosco- Lauth states:”
The primary manner for coronaviruses to spread is from person-to-person, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You are at greatest risk of infection when people are in close proximity or from respiratory droplets from an infected person when they sneeze or cough.
Is Quarantine The Answer to COVID-19?
Not in general. While there is a scientific basis for quarantining dogs to allow observation as to how they catch or pass on disease, this is not immediately helpful. We do not know as much as needed about dogs and coronavirus.
But, unless a person is infected, they do not need to quarantine their dogs. It may be frightening for people concerned about themselves and their furry family members but quarantine is rarely needed.
Are Dog Owners in China Going Overboard?
Photos taken in the streets of mainland China reveal dogs wearing face masks fitted to their tiny faces. This does not protect their dogs and is more likely to stress them out significantly. Instead of using canine face masks and causing their dogs to panic or become anxious, they should practice what is known to work.
Back to the Basics
Use common sense and the advice of WHO. Wash your hands every time you touch your dog. If you feel as though you must be more aggressive, use antiseptic wipes on your dog’s paws. This is only to be done when returning home from a walk. Do not overdo this as it can dry out your dog’s paw pads. If they become dry and cracked, it is easier for all kinds of infection to enter, not just coronavirus.
What Is The Real Risk?
After spending days reading as much research on this topic as possible, I have no concern about catching the coronavirus from a dog. Nor do I wish to traumatize any dog with a face mask nor unnecessary quarantine. It makes much more sense to avoid crowds and to practice stringent hygiene. Using soap and water is the best and be sure to dry effectively as a dry surface is less likely to keep fomites contagious. Heat is an enemy of the coronavirus.
What Really Scares Me?
Franklin Dr. Roosevelt once said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. A vet in Australia reports dog owners asking to have their healthy dogs euthanized out of fear that the dog may carry the disease to them. So far he has refused. There are photos of some people in China bludgeoning stray dogs to death for the same reason.
People are expressing concern about having their dogs forced into quarantine or euthanized due to others’ fears. Could people, in a heightened state of panic, kill or abandon their dogs? Might someone else attack their dog when they are out for a walk? Will their landlord decide to evict them if they have a dog based on their fear?
Is There Any Evidence Of This Kind Of Behavior?
There was a report in the New Scientist in 2003 that addressed this kind of behavior in Beijing. Cats were forcibly taken from their owners and killed based on the fear they animal carried the disease. This report also explained the increase in pets being abandoned.
Today,(2020)Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, has been under lockdown for over a month. Millions of people have nee quarantined outside of Wuhan while their dogs are trapped inside the city. No telling how many dogs are stranded inside the abandoned apartments without food or water.
What Is Being Done to Counteract This Problem?
Wuhan Small Animal Protection Association volunteers report that they have rescued hundreds of pets that were left behind when their owners abandoned them.
Furry Angels Haven, is a Wuhan based animal rescue group that is dedicated to finding and relocating homeless and neglected pets. A spokesperson for them states that these animals are being unfairly targeted and treated based on fear of them transmitting the virus to people.
Another source said they had seen an increase in the number of people trying to export their pets to another country. This behavior implies that the owners are planning to leave the city themselves.
Are Dogs Worth Keeping in Spite of COVID-19?
Absolutely and without a doubt, the resounding answer is, “YES!” Instead of being the problem, dogs may be part of the cure. Our dogs are not infecting us with COVID-19. However, they can help reduce the stress we may feel. This is especially true if we are remaining at home to avoid being exposed.
Dogs are known to reduce stress and to help lower high blood pressure. Stress lowers our immunity and makes it easier for us to become infected. Anything we can do to bolster our immune system and to fight off infection is a good thing. Spending extra time with your dog is not known to have any negative side effects, unlike some prescription based immune system builders.
Our canine companions are sensitive to our feelings and, somehow, know when we need that extra love and attention that only they can give. Not that we needed a study to prove this, you can read about this if you like. https://happymutt.org/study-shows-your-dog-feels-when-you-are-upset-and-in-need-of-help/
Here is an example of taking advantage of the time alone with your best friend
Marco Leung is a long-time resident of Hong Kong where he and his 7-year-old dog currently live. His dog’s name is Hung Jai which, in Cantonese, means “Little Bear”. Although he washes Hung Jai’s paws after they return from an outside walk, Leung is not overly concerned about Little Bear becoming infected with COVID-19.
Leung knows that while dogs can carry a virus on its fur, the dog will not be infected by it. He believes that good hygiene will keep them as safe as they can be. In spite of having to work from home right now, he makes the best of it. Working at home is particularly boring for Leung but he enjoys the extra time with Hung Jai, aka Little Bear. Having more time to play with one another is a great stress reliever and also builds his immune system. What a great combination.
What Can Dog Owners Do To Keep Themselves and Their Dogs Safe From COVID-19?
First of all, DO NOT PANIC. Use good common sense and even better hygiene. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Wash your hands regularly and with any potential exposure. Do you know that singing two choruses of Happy Birthday to You while washing your hands with basic soap and water will kill the virus? Be sure to wash vigorously between the fingers and in the dip between your thumbs and index fingers.
- Cover your sneeze or cough, but not with your hands. Preventing the respiratory droplets from flying through the air will keep those germs from being shared.
- Try to keep a reasonable distance from anyone appearing to be ill. There is a range of distances considered safe but I would err on the safest one. COVID-19 has been known to travel up to 9 feet.
- We touch so many potentially contaminated fomites during the day. It is vital that we learn to keep our hands away from the orifices of our faces. HUH? Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I wouldn’t worry too much about the ears but could not guarantee there is absolutely no way of transmitting via an eardrum. Why take the chance? Just keep your hands away from your head.
- Use an antibacterial cleaning product to disinfect any item or surface that you touch frequently. All fomites can place you at risk if they are contaminated when you touch them. Washing your hands is the back-up plan here.
- Pay attention to any potential signs or symptoms of respiratory illness. If you display any of them without another reasonable explanation, you should contact your physician asap.
Do You Know What Your Baseline Physical Findings Should Be?
There are a few things that every adult should know about their basic vital signs and what might cause them to be altered in either direction. You do not have to go to medical school to learn a few important facts.
- A normal resting heart rate (Pulse) for an adult is in the 60-100 beats per minute range. If it is lower than 60 bpm it is called bradycardia. When higher than 100 bpm it is called tachycardia. If you are a true athlete, your heart rate may run a little lower than normal because of the heart-strengthening benefits of exercise.
Your Blood Pressure
- Your blood pressure is recorded as two values. The systolic pressure is the first number recorded and refers to the pressure recorded with each heart-beat. The second number recorded is called diastolic blood pressure. It measures the blood pressure noted in between each heart-beat. A normal BP is to be less than 120/80 mmHg. Pre-Hypertension is considered to be a reading of 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg. Lifestyle changes can often prevent the person from developing full-blown hypertension which is at 140/90 mmHg
Your Respiratory Rate
- The number of breaths you take in a minute is called your respiratory rate (RR). The majority of healthy adults have a RR between 12-20 bpm. There are many reasons for a RR to be altered. Anyone with an underlying respiratory problem is at increased risk of a worse outcome if they are infected with COVID-19 as well as many other infections,
- Normal body temperature is most commonly considered to be 98.6 Fahrenheit and anything above 100.4 is called a fever. If it rises over 103 F, it is cause for concern.
- However, many people are documented to have a different “normal” temperature. For example, quite a few members of my family are known to have a “normal of 97.3 F. Anything above 97.3 is an elevated temperature for them and means their body is likely trying to fight off an infection. So, 101.4 is concerning for this person. FYI, hypothermia can set it if the temperature is at or below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep calm and do not panic. Use good sense and take reasonable precautions as you would with any other risk of exposure to a virus. The media has, perhaps, played a role in causing everyone to over-react a bit. This can have a domino effect and cause more problems than it prevents.
Do not allow fear to drive you to live like a hermit but do avoid people known to be ill, especially in close quarters. Remain at least a nine-foot distance, if possible, from anyone appearing ill or known to have been exposed to COVID-19.
Wash your hands often and with any potential exposure to respiratory droplets or contaminated fomites. Drink a lot of water. Build your immune system with lots of time with your dog and let him snuggle away your fears.
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