Buddy, the German Shepherd from New York who was diagnosed with the coronavirus in May, has died.
“You tell people that your dog was positive, and they look at you [as if you have] ten heads,” his owner, Allison Mahoney, told National Geographic. “[Buddy] was the love of our lives….He brought joy to everybody. I can’t wrap my head around it.”
Was it COVID-19 that killed 7-year-old Buddy, who died on July 11? In early June, he was expected to make a full recovery.
Maybe, or maybe not. Buddy also probably had lymphoma, a type of cancer, according to two veterinarians who reviewed the dog’s medical records but had not been involved with his treatment. It’s not clear whether Buddy died from COVID-19, or if the infection made his cancer symptoms worse, or if he would have died from lymphoma even if he didn’t have COVID-19.
Buddy’s symptoms began in April, when he had difficulty breathing and lost his appetite. Allison’s husband, Robert Mahoney, had already been diagnosed with COVID-19 and suspected that Buddy might have it, too. At that time, a Pug named Winston in North Carolina had (mistakenly) been diagnosed with the disease. The Mahoney family’s other dog, a young German Shepherd named Duke, showed no symptoms.
After a month of visits to three different animal hospitals and as Buddy’s symptoms worsened, on May 15 a private veterinary laboratory agreed to test the dog for COVID-19 — and got a presumptive positive result. The sample was sent to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), which confirmed it. “This is the first dog in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2,” the NVSL announced on June 2.
Duke tested negative for the virus but did have antibodies in his system, indicating that he may have been exposed, according to the NVSL.
Five days after that positive test, Buddy tested negative for COVID-19, meaning he no longer was infected with the virus.
Buddy’s condition did not improve at all, however. When he began vomiting blood on July 11, the Mahoney family made the difficult decision to end their beloved dog’s suffering. Even though a necropsy — an autopsy for animals — may have provided a clue into what was causing Buddy’s symptoms, the Mahoneys weren’t offered that option. “I would have said, ‘Take whatever you need,’ because I don’t want any other dog to suffer like he did,” Robert told National Geographic.
The Mahoneys are frustrated that public officials showed little interest in Buddy’s case, which could have potentially lead to discoveries about how COVID-19 affects pet dogs. But the Mahoneys are sure that Buddy’s veterinarians did all that they could for their dog. “I think they are learning as well,” Allison told National Geographic. “It’s all trial and error. And they tried to help us the best way they can.”
Although Buddy is gone, his loving family is also helping the best way they can by telling their heartbreaking story to National Geographic reporter Natasha Daly. Rest in peace, Buddy.
A list of animals that have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States is available on the USDA website. 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, there’s no evidence that our pets or other animals can spread the virus to humans, the NVSL stated in June.
Protecting Your Dog from COVID-19
To help prevent your dog from being infected with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (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!