After a woman in Hong Kong as well as her domestic helper had tested positive for the novel coronavirus (nCoV), known to cause the disease (COVID-19), her pet dog was also found to have levels of the virus on February 28. The dog was tested using oral, nasal and rectal samples with “low levels” of coronavirus detected, according to Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
The dog is currently kept in an animal quarantine facility. Further testing will be done to confirm whether the infection was as a result of contamination in its mouth and nose, and if dogs are able to be carriers of the virus.
The dog is reportedly asymptomatic and according to the World Health Organization, there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence regarding companion animals contracting coronavirus or infecting others.
The AFCD has urged that all mammalian pets of coronavirus patients be quarantined at a designated animal-keeping facility for two weeks.
Veterinary association offers guidance
Veterinarians in Sydney, Australia have reported a surge in pet owner inquiries regarding coronavirus transmission from pets to humans, with some asking if euthanization should be an option for their pets.
According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), it is highly unlikely that the coronavirus can be transmitted to domestic animals. “Currently there is no evidence that pets or other domestic animals can be infected with this new coronavirus,” reads a WSAVA advisory document on February 9.
The WSAVA has also pointed out that there is no current evidence of pets or other animals being a source of infection. “Additionally, there is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals might be a source of infection to people with the new coronavirus. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.”
Pets left behind in Wuhan homes
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is believed to be the source of the coronavirus outbreak, animal activists estimate that up to 50,000 pets are trapped in empty homes. Animal rights campaigners reportedly voluntarily break into homes of residents who are not allowed back into Wuhan after going on holidays due to the city’s quarantine to either feed or rescue the pets.
In early February, reports claimed that the Chinese government had ordered for pet dogs and cats to be culled in fear of coronavirus transmission among domestic animals.