Coronavirus - Information for Dog Owners
Updated January 6, 2021
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both humans and animals. The name is derived from the Latin word corona, or crown, since coronavirus particles have a ring of projections resembling a royal crown or solar corona. Coronaviruses can be subdivided into groups (1-4) based on microbial organization and evolution of the virus.
What are some common coronaviruses?
Canine enteric coronavirus (a group 1 coronavirus) is a highly contagious intestinal infection seen mostly in young puppies. It is spread by oral contact with infected feces and causes diarrhea that is self-limiting in adult dogs but can be more severe in young puppies. A vaccine is available. This virus is not contagious to other species. (See Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CECoV) - Information for Dog Owners.)
Canine respiratory coronavirus (a group 2 coronavirus) is genetically related to the common cold in humans. It is spread by direct dog to dog contact and causes acute respiratory symptoms and contributes to canine infectious respiratory disease complex (sometimes called CIRDC or kennel cough). No vaccine is available for this respiratory virus, although there are vaccines for some of the other causes of CIRDC, such as canine influenza virus, distemper virus, and Bordetella. (See Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) - Information for Dog Owners.) Canine respiratory coronavirus is not contagious to other species.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is caused by a mutation in the otherwise innocuous feline enteric coronavirus. Due to this mutation and/or an alteration in the cat’s immune system, white blood cells become infected with the virus and create an intense inflammatory reaction throughout the body. This disease is almost always fatal. A minimally effective vaccine is available. Feline enteric coronavirus is not the same as canine enteric coronavirus and neither disease is contagious to the other species.
SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) was first recognized in China in 2002. This virus is believed to have originated in bats before it was transmitted to civet cats and then humans. No cases have been reported worldwide since 2004.
MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then all cases have been linked to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. This virus is believed to have originated in bats before it was transmitted to dromedary camels and then humans.
What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
SARS-CoV-2 is a viral infection identified as the cause of a respiratory illness outbreak in humans first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19.” The first infection with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020 and it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. This virus causes a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. It is spread most commonly by close person to person contact and symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Can dogs (or other pets) contract SARS-CoV-2?
A small number of pets worldwide, including dogs and cats, have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after close contact with an infected person. Most infected pets have remained asymptomatic or experienced only mild illness. People sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as with people.
At this point in time, human to dog transmission does appear possible, but remains very unlikely. Widespread testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended. The CDC has updated recommendations for managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 (see resources).
Can I contract SARS-CoV-2 from my pet?
The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. However, it is always recommended to practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
Can I travel with my pets or import pets from regions where cases of SARS-CoV-2 are reported?
The CDC notes that “travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.” The status of COVID-19 varies by location, so you should consult your local and state authorities for restrictions and precautions related to the safety of any essential travel.
The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service oversees international pet travel. While no specific warnings or recommendations have been issued regarding pet travel, you should consult with your local and state veterinarian about any potential risk associated with pet travel.
What can I do to keep myself and my pets safe from infectious disease?
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home when you are sick.
- Isolate (keep separate) dogs that have been exposed to an animal with respiratory or intestinal illness, and those currently showing signs such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or diarrhea. Notify your veterinarian of these signs for direction on when and how to bring your dog to the clinic for evaluation and treatment.
- Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for preventive care, such as heartworm and flea and tick control, vaccinations, and nutrition to keep your pet as healthy as possible.
- Practice good hygiene and sanitation in your home and at all facilities where you and your pet visit.
- Coronaviruses comprise a large family of viruses that affect humans and animals.
- The coronaviruses that cause diarrhea and respiratory symptoms in dogs are not the same, nor are they the same as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) report the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people to be low.
References and Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Home
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 – If You Have Pets
World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – COVID-19
World Small Animal Veterinary Association - COVID-19 and Pets: what you and your clients need to know
Disease Prevention at Canine Group Settings
Help Future Generations of Dogs
Participate in canine health research by providing samples or by enrolling in a clinical trial. Samples are needed from healthy dogs and dogs affected by specific diseases.