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Can my dog get coronavirus? © Getty Images

Can my dog get coronavirus?

Published: 30th March, 2020 at 18:00
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Pets pose a risk of transmission if someone touches an animal that belongs to someone with COVID-19, but the risk is low.

There have so far been a small number of cases of dogs testing positive for the coronavirus, including two in Hong Kong for dogs whose owners were hospitalised with COVID-19. The tests used on the dogs are the same as those used on people: nasal and oral swabs that test for the genetic material of the coronavirus.

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However, both dogs had very low levels of the virus, and it’s not clear if they were infected or had just breathed in contaminated air. Neither dog showed any signs of illness, nor any immune response. If they were infected, then it was a very minor infection.

It is theoretically possible for our dogs and cats to become infected by the coronavirus, but the science suggests that it’s very unlikely. The virus would have to be able to replicate well in our pets, for which there’s no evidence, and it’s also rare for a virus to jump to a different species.

That said, pets do pose a risk of transmission if someone touches an animal that belongs to someone with COVID-19. Because of this, people who have symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to limit their contact with pets and wash their hands before and after interacting with them. For everyone else, keep regularly washing your hands and practise physical distancing, from people as well their pets.

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Authors

Jeremy Rossman is a Senior Lecturer in Virology and President of Research-Aid Networks, University of Kent. His research focuses on the process of infectious disease outbreaks, and he has contributed to studies published in journals including PLoS Pathogens, Bioinformatics and Cell.

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