The Hong Kong government says cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners, in a March 13, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

More information needed after dog’s weak positive COVID-19 test result: expert

Animal lovers may be wondering if their pets can be carriers of the new coronavirus, but experts say there’s no evidence they can transmit the disease to humans.

Prof. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph’s veterinary college said it wasn’t surprising that a dog in Hong Kong tested weakly positive for the virus in samples from its nose and mouth.

“What we need to figure out is was that a really rare thing to happen with that dog or is it common and we haven’t identified yet,” Weese said in a recent interview.

“The big question from the public health standpoint is yes, the dog was infected, but does that mean it is infectious?”

The animal was a weak positive, which might means the infection wasn’t great enough to be passed on but more information is needed, he said.

The Hong Kong government says pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners.

Hong Kong’s agricultural department said it found no evidence pets were a source of infection or could get sick themselves with the COVID-19 illness. But it suggested pets from a household of an infected person be quarantined.

In general, pet owners should maintain good hygiene, including washing hands before and after handling their animals, their food and supplies, experts advise. People who are sick should avoid contact with pets and a veterinarian should be contacted if changes in a pet’s health conditions are detected.

Weese said experts were anticipating a little more risk with cats because SARS, which is closely related to the new coronavirus, was able to infect felines.

“And cats could transmit it cat to cat. So that’s my main concern with this virus would be getting into cats.”

Weese said there hasn’t been any research on whether the virus can jump between species of pets.

“It originally went from animal to person,” he said.

“The question is, has it become a completely human virus or an almost completely human virus or does it have the ability to infect another species and that’s where we don’t know.”

Pets can get various respiratory infections where they cough, have flu-like symptoms for a few days and then they recover, he said, adding that animals to be concerned about are those with underlying problems as well as young or older pets.

Experts are concerned about the virus and livestock, he said.

“The more we can prevent people from exposing animals, the less we have to worry about this,” he said.

“So if a farmer doesn’t get exposed then we don’t have to worry about their livestock.”

Research is being done internationally on animal models, including looking at infections in different species, he said.

“We know an exceptional amount considering how new this is but there’s still so many areas that need to be studied and the animal side, that definitely needs to be done,” Weese said.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2020.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Alberta honey producer in limbo waiting for foreign workers

COVID-19 restrictions holding up tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers

Opening of Red Deer’s downtown market is also indefinitely postponed

‘There’s no set start date due to COVID-19’

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

We’re all in this together, says the City of Red Deer

‘While most city facilities are closed, we want you to know that we are still here’

Lacombe council meetings being conducted electronically due to COVID-19

Chief Administrative Officer and members of Council may participate in meetings via teleconferencing

Alberta COVID-19 website provides more context on Lacombe-area cases

Website now reporting added geographical context, recoveries

Pandemic experts put ‘least weight’ on recovery stats, look to hospitalizations

The number of new positive tests and reports of how many people have recovered are less important

Feds fast-tracked citizenship for researcher exploring COVID-19 supply chain

How Canada competing for scarce medical supplies has been a dominant issue

Canadian companies promise 30,000 ventilators on way, Trudeau says

Front-line medical workers remain in desperate need of personal protective equipment

Most Read