The scare started in late February when health officials in Hong Kong placed 17-year-old Pomeranian dog under quarantine after hospitalising its owner for Covid-19 coronavirus infection. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) issued a statement on 12 March that the blood test result of the dog which had repeatedly tested weak positive for Covid -19 virus is negative.
A week later, on 19 March, another pet dog, a two-year-old German Shepherd, was sent to the AFCD, and it too had repeatedly tested positive for the virus. The owner was confirmed with Covid-19, and the dog was sent for quarantine with another mixed breed dog from the same residence to the animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
“No positive results were obtained from the mixed-breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of disease.” The AFCD added this to be another case of human-to-dog transmission.
Covid-19 is a newly emerged disease and the situation is still evolving. The AFCD will continue to work together with Hong Kong’s Department of Health in handling relevant cases. To ensure public and animal health, the Department strongly advised that pet animals from households with persons confirmed as infected with Covid-19, or close contacts of infected persons, to be put under quarantine.
The AFCD spokesman reminded pet owners to adopt good hygiene practices and to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment. People who are sick should restrict contact with animals. If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible. Pet owners should under no circumstances abandon their pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association too, have come out to say in a FAQ that no evidence suggests dogs or cats can become sick from this coronavirus. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organisation have issued notices in the same light.
“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 Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease. “While there is no evidence of a Covid-19 infection spreading from one animal to another, keeping animals that test positive for Covid -19 away from unexposed animals should be considered best practice.”
The World Organisation for Animal Health has cautioned that there is no evidence of pets transmitting the virus to humans. “However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases... it is still recommended that people who are sick with Covid-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus,” it added.