Pet Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Dies After Quarantine

Authorities have assured pet owners that there is little evidence humans or pets can transmit the novel coronavirus to one another. Minute traces of coronavirus have been found after testing several Hong Kong pets, but scientists believe these traces did not represent infection. Instead, they were just the result of a virus floating around because the owner was infected. A number of blood samples were tested; each was returned from the lab with a negative result.

Regardless, the owner’s dog was placed in quarantine for two weeks before being returned. Shortly thereafter, the dog passed away. This has kick-started a number of conspiracy theories about pet to human or human to pet transmission, but none of them hold much weight. Sadly but understandably, the owner did not want her dog to be opened up in a lab post-mortem. No autopsy is scheduled.

The AFCD explained that the original “negative result indicates that there is not a strong immune response and that there are not measurable amounts of antibodies in the blood at this stage.”

Coronaviruses can mutate very easily, but the virus present in both pet and pet owner were genetically similar. The AFCD said, “The sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog.”

Many pet health organizations stress that the dog’s health was likely impacted only after being taken from its owner, and that the dog’s death should not represent cause for concern. The World Health Organization has also said that there is scant evidence that cats or dogs can help spread the virus.

The AFCD said, “This is, however, a rapidly evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available. [But] … there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) said that it would urge members to thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water rather than panic about the potential of transmission. 

The Maine-based Idexx Laboratories has already tested and evaluated the blood results of thousands of cats and dogs and found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes the disease COVID-19.

Idexx spokespersons said, “The new test results align with the current expert understanding that the virus is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus.”