On Feb. 26, health officials in Hong Kong placed a dog under quarantine after hospitalizing its owner for COVID-19 coronavirus infection. Veterinarians confirmed that the coronavirus had infected the dog too after taking nasal, oral and rectal swabs, along with fecal samples. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) published a report of the emerging disease, listing this case as the first known in dogs.
Nasal and oral samples tested positive for the presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the name of virus responsible for COVID-19. However, the dog hasn’t shown any outward signs of illness. Follow-up oral and nasal samples taken on March 2 and 5 continues to test positive. Another dog is under quarantine in the same Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge animal keeping facility, but has not tested positive for the virus, according to Hong Kong’ Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Thomas Sit, DVM, chief veterinary officer and assistant director (inspection and quarantine) of the Department, reported the case.
COVID-19 coronavirus infection in dogs
Doctors and veterinarians don’t know if the COVID-19 virus has the potential to be zoonotic, or transmitted from dogs to people. Doctors believe the dog got the virus directly from its owner. However, doctors don’t know how the virus was transmitted to the dog, whether by airborne particles, direct contact or bodily fluids.
In Hong Kong, health authorities quarantine mammalian pets from households with confirmed human cases of COVID-19 and place the animals under veterinary surveillance for 14 days, according to the report.
“There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick,” according to the OIE website. “Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19 virus…There is no evidence to support restrictions to movement or trade of companion animals.”
The OIE is an intergovernmental organization that monitors animal health worldwide, by providing reports and updates on diseases among other things. The World Trade Organization recognized the OIE as a reference organization. In 2018, the OIE involved 182 member countries and maintains relations with 75 international and regional organizations. OIE headquarters is located in Paris.