It was initially known as the 'novel' coronavirus, and there are still new discoveries scientists are uncovering about COVID-19.
“It seems like it does not have an affinity for dogs,” said Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Angell Medical Center.
But it does appear that man's best friend isn't exactly skating away from the pandemic unscathed. In late February, veterinary health authorities in Hong Kong took swabs from a dog in shelter after its owner was quarantined with a COVID-19 infection.
"The nasal and oral cavity samples were tested weak positive to the COVID-19 virus," they reported, noting that, "the dog did not have any relevant symptoms."
“What infection with a virus means is that the virus takes over your cells in your body and turns your body into a virus factory,” Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman said.
With COVID-19, that does not appear to happen to a significant extent in dogs.
“Whether that's because they got infected and it was such a no big deal thing that their nose, local immunity took care of it, or because they truly can't get infected, we don't know,” Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman said.
That dog remained in shelter through mid-March in Hong Kong and later tests found no antibodies to COVID-19. But veterinarians aren't ruling out an infection.
“It is known in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop," they wrote. "It is also not uncommon in the earlier stages of infections to have a negative result."
Still, it appears from this one dog that canines with COVID-19 can't spread the disease to humans or other dogs.
“But obviously we can't 100% say for sure until we experimentally try to infect dogs and then see if they shed the virus,” Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman said.
And with hundreds of places closed amid the outbreak of coronavirus, veterinarians are doing the best they can to still treat animals.
Willard Veterinary Clinic in Quincy is trying something new: not allowing pet owners inside the office during the coronavirus outbreak. A sign at the back door instructs owners to call the front office when they arrive and then get back inside their vehicle.
“What we’re trying to do is limit the exposure for our staff as well as our clients,” said Pamela Daly, the front desk manager at Willard Veterinary Clinic. “The technician will come out, retrieve the pet, bring it back into the office. The doctor will do her examination. The doctor will then call the client, who is waiting in the parking lot to review their findings [and] go over any medication the pet might need to be on.”
The technician is dressed in reusable surgical gowns and latex gloves. They’re also using their own re-washable collars and leashes.
“They’re not afraid of us getting coronavirus from our pets, they’re afraid of us getting coronavirus of people coming in,” said Dr. Meg Connelly, who says they’re following guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The clinic is also pushing back wellness visits in order to conserve supplies. But they say animals who need their rabies vaccination should still come in, as should puppies who need booster shots.
“So those babies that look healthy should get vaccinated,” Dr. Connelly said. “Not because they can give you corona[virus] but because I’m afraid they’re immunity is going to fail.”
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