While a global pandemic is not something most of us would have expected to face in our lifetimes, the comfort and reassurance our pets have provided during its challenges have been invaluable. We’d argue that there was no better colleague during lockdown than a dog!
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For many pet owners during this time, there have been concerns that the virus could also be transmitted to our beloved furry companions and in particular dogs.
So can dogs get Covid and what are the symptoms? How is it transmitted and how should you manage it?
In this helpful guide about dogs and Covid, we will answer all these questions and more.
Dogs And Covid
So can man’s best friend also pick up Covid? In short, yes. There have been some cases of suspected Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) in dogs and other domestic animals including cats, ferrets and hamsters.
Thankfully, documented cases are few and far between and dogs and other domestic animals have not been indicated as being involved in the spread of the virus. It should also be noted that as yet, there are no documented cases of the virus in domestic or wild animals in Australia.
How Can They Catch it?
Just as with humans, close contact with an infected individual is the most common way in which your dog could contract the virus. So if you’re wondering ‘can dogs get Covid from humans?’ the answer to this is also "yes".
Transmission from humans to dogs is considered low risk and as stated above, there are no known cases of this happening in Australia to date.
How Will I Know If My Dog Has Covid?
However unlikely it is that your dog will become infected with the Covid virus, the potential is still there.
So how do you know if your dog has Covid? Can dogs get sick from Covid? You may not know at all, as while dogs can catch Covid they may show no symptoms and be completely unaffected.
Should your dog present with any of the following symptoms and you think they may have contracted Covid, please make an appointment with your vet.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Lethargy (unusual lack of energy or sluggishness)
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
You’ll note that many of these symptoms can be present in your dog due to other causes, so do not panic. Even if Covid is suggested as a possible cause, it is not considered to be life-threatening or known to cause long-term complications in dogs.
Any dogs with existing comorbidities, such as cancer or heart disease are at higher risk of complications, just as they would be with any viral infection.
Covid Testing For Dogs
The Australian Veterinary Association states that currently there are no recognised or properly developed validated tests available for animals in Australia. Additionally, there has been no previously confirmed laboratory testing done in Australia.
As testing for Covid in dogs is not routinely done or considered necessary a diagnosis may simply be a result of excluding other possible causes.
Should you suspect Covid as you are currently ill with it, it is important that you do not attend your vet clinic yourself. Please call your clinic to discuss alternative consultation options or have a trusted friend or family member who is negative bring them in instead.
Can My Dog Give Covid To Me?
While there is some evidence of dogs getting Covid from a Covid positive human being, there are no recorded cases of humans contracting it from dogs. Whether Covid or the flu, the risk of transmission of viruses between dogs and humans is very low.
That being said, dogs and other animals can carry germs that can cause sickness in humans. Especially children and those with compromised immune systems. This is why we recommend always washing your hands thoroughly after contact with animals.
What About Other Animals?
If you suspect your dog is unwell with Covid, or any other virus there is a possibility they could pass it on to another dog or animal. Always keep your dog home while they are unwell and avoid crowded places such as dog parks where the transmission risk would be higher.
How Is it Transmitted?
As with humans, the usual mechanism for transmission is via contact with saliva or mucus or contaminated surfaces.
Some vets held concerns initially that a dog's coat may act as a fomite, whereby the virus attaches itself to the dog's fur and spreads through contact. However, there is little evidence to support this and mucus or saliva exposure remains the higher risk.
Managing Covid In Your Dog
In the unlikely event that your dog contracts Covid, you should do the following to keep them comfortable and reduce the risk to other animals in your household.
- Wear gloves while handling your dog's food, used dishes, bedding or waste.
- Collect and dispose of waste immediately.
- Frequently wash and change out bedding and food/water dishes. Thoroughly clean all items with soap and hot water wherever possible.
- Keep your dog away from your other pets in the house and do not allow them to share food or interact.
- Ensure plenty of fresh, cool water is available to your dog and keep their diet bland to support better digestive health during the illness.
In cases of severe fluid loss from vomiting and/or diarrhoea or persistent temperatures, your vet may also prescribe IV fluids and medication to reduce your dog's temperature and/or vomiting.
This may seem obvious, but it has to be said, do not, at any time, put a facemask on your dog or use disinfectants or sanitisers on your dog. This can cause injury or further illness.
Can Dogs Get The Covid Vaccine?
No. Currently, there is no recognised or approved Covid vaccine for dogs or other domestic pets in Australia or overseas.
The current advice from the World Organisation for Animal Health is that vaccination against Covid in dogs and other animals is not required or recommended at this time.
How To Protect Your Pet
Regardless of the low risk, it is understandable that you want to take precautions to keep your dog safe. To help further reduce the risk of your dog contracting Covid, you should:
- Avoid exposing your dog to individuals with confirmed Covid. Isolate from your pet as much as possible aside from when you need to give basic care such as feeding them.
- If you are infected, you should also avoid petting them, sharing food or bedding with them or letting them lick or snuggle you.
- Keep interactions between your dog and unknown dogs to a minimum, this could be as simple as going for a walk with them rather than visiting the dog park.
- Keep their bedding, food and water bowls clean.
If In Doubt, Call Your Vet Any time that your dog shows signs of illness, you should make an appointment to see your vet. Making guesses or wondering ‘can my dog get Covid?’ and skipping professional help can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
Remember, only a very small number of domestic pets globally have been confirmed to have caught Covid. Of this number, many had no symptoms at all or had only mild symptoms. The majority of confirmed cases were able to be cared for at home under the guidance of their vet and made a full recovery.
If you believe your dog may have Covid, contact your trusted vet for qualified help and advice.