Until this past week, there were cases of humans, tigers and cats being affected with the coronavirus. Now, for what’s believed to be the first time in the United States, a pet dog has tested positive for COVID-19.
Winston, a 2-year-old Pug who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., coughed frequently and lost his appetite for a day, but he’s now doing fine. His dog mom, Dr. Heather McLean, is a pediatrician at Duke Health. She and two other members of her family were also infected with COVID-19. They all had mild symptoms. The family’s other dog and a cat did not test positive.
Perhaps, like me, you’re wondering how in the world family pets were able to be tested for COVID-19 when hundreds of thousands of humans are still waiting to be tested. As it turns out, the family is participating in a Duke University study that’s researching how bodies react to infections. The study, called the Molecular and Epidemiological Study of Suspected Infection (MESSI), was launched before the pandemic. The results will hopefully lead to effective tests and treatments for infections like COVID-19.
“Everyone is a little on edge and afraid, so this just gives us the ability to feel like we have something that we can contribute to society and help patients get better,” McLean told WTVD.
On April 1, MESSI researchers came to her home to test her family. “They all came out to our house and did blood samples,” McLean told WRAL. “For the humans, they swabbed our noses as well as our mouths, and for the animals they did oral swabs for both dogs and the cat.”
If you’re concerned about your own dog getting COVID-19, McLean said you shouldn’t worry too much about it. “We’re not seeing an epidemic of household pets or them transmitting it to other humans and animals — we just happened to detect it in our dog,” she told USA TODAY.
In early March, a dog belonging to someone with the coronavirus in Hong Kong was believed to be the first pet dog in the world to get the virus from a human.
However, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, there is still no evidence that dogs or other pets can transmit the coronavirus to people.
Protecting Your Dog from COVID-19
To help prevent your dog from being infected with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you do the following:
- Don’t let your dog interact with other people or animals outside your home.
- Walk your dog on a leash and stay at least 6 feet away from other people and animals.
- Even if they’re open in your area, avoid dog parks and other public places where people and dogs congregate.
If you have been infected with COVID-19:
- If at all possible, have another family member or friend take care of your dog.
- If you must be around your dog, wear a face mask and wash your hands frequently.
- The hard part: Avoid touching, kissing, snuggling or otherwise interacting with your dog.
- The most important part: Get well soon!
Photo: CBS This Morning/YouTube