Update: Woohoo! Yay! Hell yeah! The World Health Organization has just now come out stating that, as far as they can tell, there’s no real evidence that our companion animals — dogs and cats, at least — can be infected by the new coronavirus, or COVID-19. Now, our precious pets can technically still carry the coronavirus, but they seem to experience no symptoms whatsoever, and even if they do manage to become carriers, the chances of them actually spreading the virus to a person are very, very, very unlikely.
The coronavirus is spread primarily through contaminated droplets that result when we cough, sneeze, drip muck from our noses or possibly even just breathe within close quarters of another person. And while our pets are more than capable of producing such droplets, as anyone who’s laughed their butts off while their dog has an intense sneezing fit knows, scientists have found that there are numerous barriers in place that generally prevent viruses like this one from jumping from one species (dogs) to another (humans).
All of which is to say, my dog is thrilled that he can go to the dog park again, and I’m very, very glad that he won’t get the coronavirus, because he’s my smol baby.
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Okay… calm down, Ian. Take a few deep breaths, pull yourself together, man. You need to approach this situation cool and collected so you can ensure that your smol son makes it through okay.
The best way to do that, I suppose, is to actually look into the science and not have a complete freakout after reading one headline. So, let me just take a step back for a moment: Yes, a pet dog belonging to a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have “low levels” of the COVID-19 virus. The levels are so low, in fact, that scientists in Hong Kong and the World Health Organization are still unsure if the pooch is actually infected, or if it had just picked up traces of the virus by licking a contaminated surface (like its owner’s mouth).
But whether or not this specific dog actually has the coronavirus, there has certainly been a substantial amount of concern about whether pets can contract the virus, because word on the street is that it probably initially emerged from animals (bats and possibly pangolins, but likely not dogs) before being passed on to humans.
As you can see below, some dog owners have resorted to putting (pointless) surgical masks on their pups, and in some places, authorities are going as far as rounding up and exterminating stray animals as part of their coronavirus precautionary measures. (Which, what the hell, man!)
Furthermore, as a precaution, the Hong Kong government has declared, “If a pet owner is confirmed as infected with COVID-19 or as a close contact of a COVID-19 case and ordered to be quarantined in a quarantine center, the pet animal concerned will be collected and delivered by [the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] to the designated animal keeping facilities for quarantine and veterinary surveillance. Samples will be collected for testing of COVID-19 virus as appropriate. The animal concerned will be returned to the owner upon the satisfactory results of veterinary surveillance and relevant testing and when the owner or his/her authorized person is ready for receiving the animal.”
While the dog in question reportedly has no symptoms, it has been placed under quarantine, “is the only dog under quarantine at [the] animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge at the moment” and will be returned to its owner once it tests negative for the virus.
Now, prior to this case, the World Health Organization had stated, “There is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.” And it seems that they’ll maintain this statement until this most recent case is actually confirmed, which would be the first case of a pet being infected with the coronavirus.
The situation is still evolving, though, and much like how we’ve seen opinions on the coronavirus go from mild concern to global panic, it’s possible that we could see the coronavirus pass on to our pets, too. “The general consensus is that we don’t have enough information,” says Tony Johnson, emergency and critical care veterinarian and Minister of Happiness for the Veterinary Information Network. And since we don’t even have a human coronavirus vaccine yet, our animals will have to wait even longer for treatment, if they can indeed catch the coronavirus.
While you wait and see how things pan out, if you want to take the highest precautions to ensure that your feline friends stay coronavirus-free, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that pet owners restrict contact with other animals if the owner is infected, and that includes “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.” In other words, just like you would with yourself, keep your pet the hell away from anything that could possibly have the coronavirus.
Well, Tucker, my boy, it sounds like maybe we should skip the dog park this week until we learn more. Sorry, bud.
*Tucker eats my head off and walks himself to the dog park anyway*