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PETS AND THE CORONAVIRUS

A recent update of a Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong tested weakly positive for SARS CoV2 has created a psychological distress for many pet owners globally raising question on whether our pets cane be a source of infection.

Yes! Dogs have been diagnosed with Corona Viral Infection (transmissable gastroenteritis) since the last 15 years or more in Nepal, however Canine Corona Virus (CCoV) is not the same virus as SARS CoV2. Viruses are strictly host-specific and cannot affect any other organs or species to which they are specific and can undergo replication. CCoV is specific to intestinal epithelium (outer lining) of dogs especially puppies with challenged immunity as opposed to the respiratory symptoms seen in confirmed cases of Novel CoV infection in humans. More specifically, the viruses are from different genera of the same family.

Canine Coronavirus and feline Coronavirus are both Alpha-Coronaviruses. These care not associated with the current Coronavirus outbreak. Until the appearance of SARS-Cov-2 which belongs to the beta Coronaviruses, there were only six known Coronaviruses capable of infecting humans and causing respiratory disease, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus SARS-CoV (identified in 2002-03) and Middle East respiratory syndrome Coronavirus MERS-CoV (identified in 2012). SARS-Cov-2 is genetically more related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are beta Coronaviruses.

Currently there is limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with SARS-Cov-2 and no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or to humans. The tested positive dog had a low-level of the virus and that it is likely to be the case of human-to-animal transmission. Since the dog showed no symptoms of the disease, the significance of the positive test may have come as a result of the dog picking up the virus from the environment with its nose from contaminated environment. In short, there was Coronavirus on the dog just like there was Coronavirus on the floor in the room.

The disease is still under study and we have very less ideas about its origin and exact source of outbreak and how the disease will progress in future. There is as possibilities of pets being infected with CoVID-19 and vice-versa. For now, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after being in contact with pets to protect against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans. Pet owners should follow hygiene rules strictly.

Please do not abandon your animals and while it may be difficult for many of you due to space constraints, please do look after your dog’s exercise needs and diet as best possible.


Dr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com