Can dogs get the coronavirus? Yes and No. The strain of the coronavirus that is currently causing worldwide concern is COVID-19 (SARS-CoV2). While there was a dog that tested weakly positive to the virus in China, there is currently no data to suggest that dogs can come down with this disease or spread this strain of virus. The dog that tested positive was merely exposed from its infected owner, but did not contract the disease itself, nor does it seem to be spreading the disease to other people or animals.
Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
While there is currently no data to suggest that dogs can come down with this disease or spread this strain of virus, can dogs get different strains of coronavirus? Yes.
There are two groups of coronaviruses that affect dogs. Group one causes enteric or gastrointestinal disease. Group two causes respiratory disease.
The enteric form is more common in puppies less than six weeks of age, especially those in close contact with other dogs (Nelson and Couto). Respiratory coronavirus is a component of canine infectious respiratory disease complex, or Kennel Cough, in which dogs of all ages are susceptible (AVMA.org).
The enteric form causes vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. The good news is it is often self-limiting, meaning puppies typically get better on their own. If treatment is required, supportive care such as rehydration, nutritional support, and antiemetics are employed to help the puppy clear the infection and feel better sooner. While there is a vaccine available, its use is controversial and is not broadly recommended. In other words there is no harm to giving the vaccine, but there is question as to its effectiveness.
Respiratory disease induced by a coronavirus can occur alone or in conjunction with other agents of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica (a bacteria commonly referred to as “Kennel cough”) and others (AVMA.org). Supportive therapies are indicated such as oxygen supplementation, nebulization, and antitussives (cough suppressants).
In general practice, cultures to identify the specific infectious agent are not always performed, so often times antibiotics (which fight bacterial infections, but do not do much towards viruses) are also dispensed to cover all bases.
Isolation is a critical component of controlling the virus. Although there is no standard time frame required, three weeks of isolation is recommended based on the pathogenesis of other respiratory infectious diseases. Unfortunately there is no vaccine for the respiratory form, and the vaccine for the enteric form does not provide protection for the respiratory form.
Preventing Coronavirus in Dogs
Vaccinations for parainfluenza, adenovirus, distemper virus (all included in the “distemper shot”), and Bordetella bronchiseptica are recommended as part of a routine vaccination protocol for dogs and may be helpful in preventing coronavirus induced respiratory disease as it commonly coincides with these diseases.
Controlling the spread of coronavirus can be difficult as it is a very contagious infectious agent. Avoidance of kennels, dog shows, and dog parks is recommended. However as coronavirus is an enveloped virus, it is relatively susceptible to most commercial disinfectants (Greene).
All surfaces should be cleaned, disinfected, and dried thoroughly in an effort to control the spread of disease. Although it has not been proven, coronavirus does have zoonotic potential (again not in reference to COVID-19), making hand washing a vital component of disease prevention, biosecurity, and public health control.
The Impact of Coronavirus in the Veterinary Field
That being said, COVID-19 is indirectly affecting veterinary medicine with potential shortages in medications and medical supplies such as gloves and surgical masks.
While no shortages of medications have been reported at the time this article was written, there has been a break in the supply chain for drug manufacturers in China that may lead to a shortage down the road. The FDA and CDC are working closely together to find a solution.
- AVMA. org. Canine Respiratory Coronavirus (FAQ). 2008.
- Greene, Craig E. Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. Third Edition. 2006. Ch 8.
- Nelson, Richard W. and Couto, C. Guillermo. Small Animal Internal Medicine. Third Edition. 2003. pp. 398-9, 432-3. 436, 1256-7.
About The Author
Dr. Eric Weiner is a small animal veterinarian practicing in Orlando, Florida. He is a third generation veterinarian as both his father and grandfather are vets. Although he grew up following both of them around and wanted to be a veterinarian himself, he took a bit of a detour and attended Hofstra University originally as a music major.
Eventually realizing his true passion still lays within Veterinary Medicine, he switch majors and graduated in 2010 with a BA in biology and dual minors in biochemistry and music. Dr. Weiner attended Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 2015, concentrating in mixed animal medicine and surgery. During his clinical year, his favorite rotation was which ever he was currently on. He especially enjoyed spending time at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, where he worked closely with search and rescue dogs, diabetic alert dogs, and even cancer detection dogs.
When Dr. Weiner is not working with animals, he enjoys riding his motorcycle and playing baseball. He is married to his high school sweetheart and they are enjoying their brand new baby girl. In addition, they live with their therapy dog Murphy, and two cats, Stella and Luna.