What you need to know about dogs and coronavirus

Can dogs get coronavirus? Learn more about how this fast-spreading disease can affect your pet, and what precautions you should put in place.

In a recent conversation with my vet, I asked her if dogs could get coronavirus. To my surprise, she said there’s been a dog coronavirus around for years. Dog coronaviruses produce mild symptoms in most dogs. The symptoms look like respiratory illnesses such as:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat

The virus can prove fatal if a dog contracts a secondary infection on top of the virus. This can lead to other issues, like kennel cough. But for mild cases, the treatment includes rest, steam therapy to lessen coughing and soft foods that are easier to swallow.

The big question, of course, is whether humans with coronavirus can pass the virus to their pets.

Vets tell us that humans cannot pass coronavirus to the pets, nor can their pets pass the virus to their owners. But awhile back, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation that humans should avoid animals if they were traveling to China. They also warned dog owners not to handle their own dogs if sick.

This makes you wonder if our vets aren’t telling us everything – or more likely, they don’t know for sure what the coronavirus could be capable of.

In a recent press release, Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) said: “the coronavirus that infects animals do not infect humans unless the virus mutates – which is what the 2019-nCoV did in the Wuhan, China region.”

When asked about this, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, world-renowned veterinary behaviorist and former professor at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine said, “Typically coronaviruses like the ones that caused the common cold and flu do not jump species from human to dog, but who knows with this new one which has already jumped from bats to humans.”

No one currently really knows the extent of what this virus can do. At the time of this writing, it’s infected people in 78 countries worldwide, and it’s still spreading. In the USA, thirty people have died. Last week, the World Health Organization announced that the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu, and pleaded for other countries to share their data to help scientists better understand the disease.

So, when your vet tells you that the coronavirus isn’t transmittable from human to dog or dog to human, he or she may not know for sure. Dog parents should be cautious to protect their dogs by keeping them away from other dogs that seem ill, and providing them a clean environment and good food. If your dog shows any signs of respiratory illness and doesn’t get better, contact your vet right away.

Similarly, if you get the coronavirus, don’t handle your dog. Wash your hands before feeding and watering your pet. Throw away tissues you’ve used to blow your nose or cough into.

As of today, vets assume that although the 2019-nCoV mutated in the past, it won’t affect our pets. As a dog owner, it’s important that you stay up to date on current coronavirus news, especially news related to pets. And let’s hope this virus will be contained soon so that more people aren’t infected.