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  • Dr. Liz Bales

Awaiting confirmation from CDC and AVMA -The first dog in the USA has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Breaking news today - We are awaiting confirmation from the CDC and the AVMA that the first dog in the USA has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID19. On April 1, The McLean family of North Carolina and their pets were tested as part of the Molecular and Epidemiological Study of Suspected Infection with Duke University. The McLean family includes a mother (pediatrician), father (works in the ER), son, daughter, a cat and two dogs.

The cat, one of the dogs and the daughter tested negative for the virus.

The mother, father, son and the other dog, a pug named Winston, tested positive for the virus. Winston made a habit of licking the family dinner plates, and sleeping in their beds. Winston showed mild upper respiratory signs and is on his way to making a full recovery.

Testing has been very limited.

Obtaining testing for animals has been extremely difficult and therefore it has been challenging to get information. That is all about to change. In the next two weeks, Idexx Laboratories will be launching a SARS-CoV-2 test for pets that will be available worldwide.

What does this mean for you and your pets?

It is very important to get scientific information, not based in fear and that we make decisions that consider both human and animal welfare. There is no evidence that animals are a source of COVID19 to humans. There is no reason to re-home your pets or to hold off adopting a pet at this time. It is becoming clear that it is possible for humans infected with COVID19 to pass the virus on to their pets. Animals may show no symptoms or may show mild upper respiratory signs. There are no known fatalities as a result of COVID19 in animals.

How do you keep your pets safe?

Outside of the home, “social distance” from animals and people. Humans are advised to stay at least 6 feet away from one another. Likewise, keep your pets at least 6 feet from people and other pets outside of the home. No dog parks, or pet playdates. Cats should be kept indoors or on a leash. Inside the home, if a household member is sick, limit their contact with animals. The sick person should wear a face mask when sharing the room with pets and should not share food, or close physical contact with pets. Plan for another household member to care for your pets.

“Novel” means we are learning as we go.

COVID19 is caused by a Novel Coronavirus. “Novel” means brand new. Until late 2019, this virus did not exist. We are learning how the virus acts, and how to protect ourselves and our pets as fast as we can. The information is evolving weekly and sometimes daily. It is important that we stay informed, and not fearful, to protect our people and our pets.

The Coronavirus gets its name from its crown-like appearance. The spikes that make the crown-like shape are not merely decorative. These “spike proteins” act like a key to attach to the ACE2 receptors and unlock entry into the cell of humans.

The coronavirus spike proteins seem to be able to attach to animal ACE2 receptors too. Over the past few weeks, information has been gathering that humans can give the virus to animals, as we have seen with the two dogs in Hong Kong, some cats in Belgium, the big cats at The Bronx Zoo, and two cats in NYC. On April 26 we learned that two Mink farms in the Netherlands with 20,000 mink between them, have mink that tested positive for the virus.

Stay tuned for more information.

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