Tue, 03/10/2020 - 1:19pm

The ABCs of Coronavirus

Everything you need to know about the pandemic and dogs

What do I need to know about coronavirus?


Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in people or animals. The virus gets its name from the fact that when viewed under an electron microscope, the virus has a ring of projections that appear like a coronet, or small crown. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are dry cough, fever, and tiredness. Some patients have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. About 80% of people recover from the disease without needing special treatment. 

Older patients, and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention. 

COVID-19 is spread by contact with people who have the virus. The disease is transmitted from person to person when small droplets are exhaled from the nose or mouth of a person with COVID-19. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the infected person. Other people catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth.  

The length of time that the COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces is unknown. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions, such as the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water for the recommended 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from an infected person who coughs out or exhales droplets. It is recommended to stay more than three feet away from a person who is sic

The incubation period is the time between coming in contact with the virus and starting to show symptoms of the disease. The estimates for the incubation period of COVID-19 range from 1 to 14 days, with 5 days being the most common.

At this time, there is no vaccine and no specific anti-viral medication to prevent or treat COVID-19. Those affected should receive supportive care to relieve symptoms and seriusly ill people should be hospitalized. 

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and should not be used as a treatment or preventive. They are best used only as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.


Can humans catch COVID-19 from animals?


Coronaviruses include a large number of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Current research suggests the new coronavirus COVID-19 originated from bats.

Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed. To be safe, when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with the animals and the surfaces with which they come into contact. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods. It is also advised that you avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products. Dog owners feeding raw diets need to practice good food safety measures.


Do dogs get coronavirus?


Yes, coronavirus disease is a highly infectious intestinal infection most often affecting puppies. The virus is in the coronavirus family, but there is no evidence yet that dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that is COVID-19. Canine coronavirus infections are usually short-lived, but may cause considerable abdominal discomfort for a few days.

Most cases of canine coronavirus are contracted by oral contact with infected fecal matter. A dog may also become infected by eating from contaminated food bowls or by direct contact with an infected dog. Crowding and unsanitary conditions encourage coronavirus transmission.

The incubation period from ingestion to clinical signs is 1 to 4 days. Dogs that are afflicted with canine coronavirus are susceptible to secondary infections by bacteria, parasites and other viruses, such as parvovirus. These infections can interfere with the dog’s ability to recover. Dogs may be carriers of the disease for up to 6 months.

The most typical symptoms of canine coronavirus are a sudden onset of diarrhea, lethargy and a decrease in appetite. The stool has a fetid odor with blood and mucus present. Treatment includes medication to control the diarrhea and electrolyte fluids for dehydrated patients. 

Vaccines for canine coronavirus are available, however these vaccines do not cross-protect for COVID-19. The vaccine is not recommended for all dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if your dog’s lifestyle and risk assessment indicate that coronavirus vaccine should be administered.


Can I catch COVID-19 from my dog?


At this time, experts believe it is highly unlikely. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently advises that there is no evidence to suggest that dogs can be infected with the new coronavirus. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also states that there is currently no sign that companion animals can spread COVID-19.

Apparently, there was one single dog reported in Hong Kong that tested “weak positive” for the virus. The Pomeranian’s owner had tested positive for the virus and authorities in Hong Kong were saying it was likely a case of human-to-animal transfer. The dog remains in quarantine and is showing no symptoms of illness.

The WHO and the CDC are making the following recommendations regarding the pets of people who test positive for COVID-19. Pets should be treated the same way we would treat a family member. It is advised to keep the 3 foot distance and if possible, have someone else care for the pets in the meantime. Wear a mask and wash your hands before and after coming in contact with your pets. Avoid kissing, snuggling, or sharing food, and have someone else walk them. Again, these recommendations refer to people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Dogs do not appear to transfer the virus and there is very little evidence that they can even contract it. There have been no reported cases of pets becoming infected with COVID-19 in the United States or anywhere else in the world, with the exception of that one “weak positive” in Hong Kong. There are no reports of recent increases in cases of dogs with fevers of unknown origin.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine (Cornell) has recently purchased the necessary equipment to test for COVID-19 in pets. They expect the test to be available to veterinarians starting March 15, 2020.

Although current information suggests that our pets cannot become infected with COVID-19 and cannot spread it to other animals and people, researchers at the college will begin offering this testing in order to monitor the outbreak. There is still a lot we do not know about this new virus.


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