Niagara-area dog tests positive for COVID-19 but most pets are still safe

·2 min read

A dog in Ontario's Niagara Region has tested positive for COVID-19, although researchers say most pet owners shouldn't be worried.

Positive tests for novel coronavirus in dogs are rare because they are typically asymptomatic and they get over the ailment quickly.

Scott Weese, the chief of infection control at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, is part of a study that found the positive case in the Niagara area. He said that any household where a person has COVID-19 should include their pets in the quarantine as a precautionary measure.

"Your dog is less likely to be infected than the people in your household, but it's possible and we don't want to create the chance that your dog can pass it on," said Weese on Monday morning.

He also noted that pet owners should not be worried about their animals falling ill.

"It's a human virus," said Weese. "It likes people and there are some animal species that can be effected but that's a spillover.

"We've got probably not uncommon human-to-dog infection but the dogs rarely, if ever, get sick."

Other animals, like non-human primates and minks, are much more susceptible to the virus than dogs.

Weese said that of approximately 40 pets tested in the study only the dog has been confirmed as having the virus. A cat in the study had some lingering antibodies from COVID-19, suggesting it had once been sick.

Testing animals for the study has been difficult logistically. The household first has to discover that a person has COVID-19, then contact the researchers to have their pets checked, and then the test has to be administered within the relatively small window that the animal may be sick.

"We're looking at a few different aspects of (COVID-19) like how it's moving and if it's moving between people and animals," said Weese. The antibody testing — after the virus has passed — is usually how it's confirmed an animal had the coronavirus, he said.

"It looks like it's probably not that uncommon for people to spread it to their pets and for the pets to not have any consequences from it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press