Experts say there’s no evidence pets can spread the dangerous pathogen but research remains limited.
An 8-year-old Newfoundland died last week in Raleigh in what health officials say is the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case in a dog.
The animal’s owner brought it into the NC State Veterinary Hospital on Aug. 3, after the dog exhibited symptoms of respiratory distress, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported in a statement. It died that day.
The National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed that the animal had SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
Research is limited in how the virus is transmitted among animals and humans, but the initial source of the virus is widely considered to have been an animal — “likely a bat,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Health officials, however, say that household pets are not seen as likely to spread or get the virus.
“There is no indication at this time that dogs can transmit the virus to other animals, so there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare,” State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Meckes wrote in the NCDHHS statement.
The Newfoundland’s owner alerted hospital staff members that a family member had previously tested positive for coronavirus, but that a later test returned negative results, the NCDHHS said.
The NCDHHS did not provide additional information about the dog, its owner or where the animal lived.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says that both deaths and infection rates are low for household pets.
“During the first five months of the COVID-19 outbreak (January 1 – June 8, 2020), which includes the first twelve weeks following the March 11 declaration by the WHO of a global pandemic, fewer than 20 pets have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 globally,” the association says on its website. “This despite the fact that as of June 8, the number of people confirmed with COVID-19 exceeded 7 million globally and 1.9 million in the United States.”
Buddy, a 7-year-old German shepherd from Staten Island New York, was the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus in the United States. Buddy, who had lymphoma as well, died on July 11, National Geographic reported. It is unclear if the virus contributed to the death, National Geographic reported.
American Veterinary Medical Association spokesperson Michael San Filippo told NBC News that most dogs that have contracted the disease show minimal symptoms or are asymptomatic.
“We have more to learn, like how [the virus] might combine with other conditions to cause more serious problems,” San Filippo said. He advised practicing social distancing between pets and people who are ill. He also advocated keeping pets away from other people’s pets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service publishes a list of animals infected with the coronavirus. As of Aug. 13, the department reported 14 confirmed cases of dogs infected, and 13 cases of household cats 13 states.
According to the CDC website, most infections in pets and other domestic animals occur after the animals have come in contact with people who have the coronavirus.
Several big cats at the Bronx Zoo in New York, including four tigers and three lions, tested positive for coronavirus after displaying symptoms of respiratory illness in April. Public health officials said they believed the cats became sick after being exposed to an infected zoo employee. The animals have fully recovered.