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COVID-19 and Dogs

The entire nature, together with people and animals, learn to adapt in order to thrive in the constant new conditions of a fast-developing world. Viruses and bacteria responsible for outbreaks are also in a continuous adaptation process. Often, when pet owners learn that their pet is suffering from an infectious illness, they fear that the disease might be contagious for humans. While some bacterial or viral infections can indeed affect both humans and animals, some are limited to specific species, just like Coronavirus.

The entire world is currently dealing with an acute respiratory syndrome caused by a Coronavirus. This virus is known as COVID-19 and is part of a broader group or family called Coronoviridae. This group entails numerous viral strains, each specific for certain species (dogs, cattle, swine, cats, horses, poultry, rodents and humans) and body systems. With the current outbreak in humans, many wonder if dogs represent any risk of getting and disseminating the virus.

Are we at risk of getting the virus from our dogs and vice-versa?

No! Currently, there is no clear study or evidence that can accurately prove that this specific strain of Coronavirus can pass from one species to another. In their adaptation process, most viruses prepare to live in particular cells that can offer them a proper environment for multiplication. Some viruses are indeed less pretentious, don`t require highly specific conditions, and thus can pass from one species to another. COVID-19, however, is not proven to have this capacity of moving from humans to animals and the other way around

Are there any particular strains in the Coronavirus family that can affect dogs?

Yes, there are a few types and subtypes of Coronavirus that can affect dogs. These strains have been identified in the 1970s and have been closely studied since then. Research studies showed these specific strains adapted to infect dogs and thus are limited to this species

What type of infections does Canine Coronavirus cause in dogs?

In dogs, Coronavirus can cause:

  • Digestive infections – which are caused by a multitude of viral strains that affect the gastrointestinal tract of dogs. These strains are called Enteric or Pantropic Canine Coronavirus and infect dogs by entering into their nose or mouth with contaminated materials. The incubation period, or the time elapsed from the virus entering the body and the appearance of the clinical signs, may variate from one to four days. Some strains can cause more obvious clinical signs, primarily when associated with other viral or bacterial infections. Symptoms may include lethargy, lack of appetite, and moderate or severe digestive disturbances. In dogs, enteric Coronavirus is rarely a cause of death;·  
  • Respiratory infections are caused by two strains of Canine Coronavirus identified as T101 and 430/07. While these numbers might not mean much, they are different from the one that is affecting the respiratory system in humans. These strains infect dogs through the mouth or nose and although the incubation period is short, clinical signs are in most cases, inapparent. Respiratory syndromes caused by Canine Coronavirus do not cause death, and symptoms may include mild episodes of coughing, nasal discharge and occasionally, lack of appetite.

Here are some other things that you should know about Canine Coronavirus:

  • Canine Coronavirus, both digestive and respiratory syndromes, affect the dogs with a weakened immune system, such as puppies that had a rough start in life or which don’t have a proper living environment.
  • Shelter dogs are more exposed to the disease due to the high number of dogs in a limited space.
  • Treatment is not specific for any of the viral strains and, in general, aims at correcting possible dehydration, providing antibiotics to prevent further infections, and proper nutritional support.
  • Most dogs recover spontaneously without any treatment.

Vaccination against Canine Coronavirus is currently available, but the World Small Animal Veterinary Association does not recommend it. While vaccination is the best way to prevent some diseases, unfortunately, the one against Canine Coronavirus is expensive and will only create partial immunity. Even more, the incidence of the disease is very low, and specialists believe that vaccination in these conditions is not justified.

Wanting to know more about a disease is always beneficial because we can learn how to prevent it and how to protect ourselves. At the same time, we need to discern between what is valid information and what is derived from possible anxiety or fear. The current virus that managed to stir panic in the entire world is specific for humans and was not proven to cause clinical signs in dogs, regardless of the strength of their immune system. Proper washing of hands, a little bit of precaution when we are outdoors in crowded places and giving our pup a big kiss on their nose, are all good preventive measures against human Coronavirus.

References:

  • Chen, Si, et al. “Molecular Characterization of HLJ-073, a Recombinant Canine Coronavirus Strain from China with an ORF3abc Deletion.” Archives of Virology, vol. 164, no. 8, 2019, pp. 2159–2164., DOI:10.1007/s00705-019-04296-9.
  • Craig E. Greene. “Canine Coronavirus Enteritis.” Infectious Dis. of the Dog and Cat, Elsevier/Saunders, 2012, pp. 76–79.
  • Craig E. Greene. “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease.” Infectious Dis. of the Dog and Cat, Elsevier/Saunders, 2012, pp. 58.

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