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As the coronavirus outbreak continues to envelop hundreds of thousands of people in its death grip, everyone is taking desperate measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. Governments have advised people to maintain extreme cleanliness, disinfect household items frequently, and self-quarantine even if they are not necessarily sick. But where do our beloved fur companions fit into all this mess?
Can your canine companion contract the wildly spreading coronavirus? Can they pass it on to you and your family members? How can you keep your dog safe during the pandemic?
In this comprehensive guide to pets and COVID-19, we cover everything you need to know about keeping yourself and your pooch out of harm’s way.
For a majority of people, ‘coronavirus’ is a new name, but an expert veterinarian will tell you that the disease has existed among dogs for a long time. You might not know it either unless you happen to be one of those unfortunate pup parents whose pet suffered from this disease long before the novel coronavirus found a host in humans.
Canine coronavirus, commonly known as CCoV, is a highly contagious intestinal infection in dogs. It usually affects young dogs and tends to be fatal in puppies. The disease is usually short-lived but causes severe abdominal discomfort and, in extreme cases, organ failure.
Canine coronavirus spreads by unsanitary conditions and close contact with an infected dog. Dogs suffering from this disease generally exhibit the following symptoms:
Canine coronavirus can be prevented by the CCoV vaccines, but there is no known cure for this disease. However, medical intervention at the early stages can limit the effects of this illness on your pooch’s health.
While the two viruses belong to the same group of microorganisms, the human coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus as it is being called) responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is way different from the canine coronavirus that was first identified in 1971.
To begin with, CCoV does not affect people, whereas SARS-CoV-2, despite originating from animals, is transferring from person to person.
Secondly, CCoV only causes gastrointestinal problems in dogs, while the novel coronavirus leads to severe respiratory issues in humans.
Another important thing to note is that although vaccines are available for CCoV, there are currently no vaccinations to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus in dogs or even humans for that matter.
This brings us to the critical question:
So far, there is very limited research on the relationship between pets and COVID-19. Scientists believe that the novel coronavirus can infect cats, but it is not really harmful to dogs.
A team of virologists at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China conducted an experiment on various animals. They injected cats and dogs with high doses of the virus and found that it started damaging the upper respiratory tracts of the cats within two days. But the dogs did not show any symptoms of the illness.
However, news have recently started surfacing about the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on household pets.
According to a story published at South China Morning Post, the first dog with coronavirus has died after contracting the disease from their owner. The 17-year-old Pomeranian tested ‘weak-positive’ for SARS-CoV-2 even after returning home from a government pet quarantine facility in Hong Kong.
Similarly, a Belgian cat started showing symptoms of respiratory failure a week after their owner was diagnosed with COVID-19. The cat had diarrhea and vomiting, and researchers found active viruses in its feces. The authorities did not reveal whether the cat is alive or not, but the timings and positive test results of these pets strongly suggest the possibility of human-to-animal transmission.
Another report that has generated international headlines is of a tiger in the Bronx Zoo in New York. According to the USDA, the tiger caught the infection from an employer at the zoo who was confirmed with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people should limit contact with their pets, be it a dog, cat, rabbit, ferret, or any other animal.
This includes everything from stroking them and being licked to sharing food, bed, and more.
Wash your hands properly, preferably with an antibacterial soap every time you feed your pooch, touch their supplies (food bowl, toys, etc.), and handle pet waste.
If you take them outdoors for a walk or if they accompany you on grocery shopping and the likes, try to ensure that they do not lick or rub against any surfaces that can be possibly contaminated.
To sum it up, CDC says that you shouldn’t worry about your dog as a source of infection. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry – and as such, you must avoid getting too close to your pets for the time being.
Coronavirus is the collective name for a wide group of microorganisms that have lived in animals for a long time. However, only a few types of these viruses are known to cause sickness in humans. The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the current pandemic, is spreading at an alarmingly fast rate among humans. Given its origin, it’s clear that it can hijack animal cells too. However, scientists say that dog owners need not panic yet as there is no evidence that the virus can infect canines or transmit to humans via pets. Nonetheless, it’s better to follow the social distancing advisory around your fur friend so that you both can stay safe during this world catastrophe.
For more information on pets and COVID-19, check out this detailed guide by CDC.
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