Plus, learn how to keep them safe from other illnesses.

By Kelly Vaughan
March 03, 2020

While the whole world is closely watching to see where coronavirus is going to spread next, there's one thing that you don't need to be concerned about: your dog or cat catching the disease. After one dog tested "weak-positive" for coronavirus in Hong Kong, experts are now trying to alleviate fears for pet owners everywhere. Despite the fact that the dog's nasal and oral cavities tested positive for the virus, Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department and the World Health Organization say that there is no evidence to suggest that pets can contract the disease, nor can they spread it to humans.

Jenn Sinrich

"Present evidence suggests that dogs are no more of a risk of spreading (coronavirus) than inanimate objects such as door handles," wrote Sheila McClelland, the founder of Hong Kong-based Lifelong Animal Protection Charity, in a letter to the Hong Kong authorities, which was shared with CNN. Additionally, no previous research proves that the coronavirus test is even accurate when used for dogs.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Canine Flu

According to Jane Gray, Hong Kong SPCA's chief veterinary surgeon, dogs and cats can get a form of coronavirus, but it's not the same strain that is associated with the current worldwide outbreak. "There are many strains of coronavirus that can affect dogs and cats. The most common strains are canine enteric (CECoV), feline enteric (FCoV) and canine respiratory (CRCoV) coronavirus, which can cause gastro-intestinal or respiratory symptoms," says Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary. However, none of these strains match COVID-19, which is the one currently threatening nations worldwide. However, pet owners are still taking precautions. Photos of dogs in Beijing reveal that owners have put masks on their furry friends, and some have even quarantined their own dogs to reduce potential exposure.

Experts say that the best way to protect your dog from any illness or disease is to practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching pets. "The strains of coronavirus that affect pets are spread in similar ways (through air-borne virus particles and contact with contaminated environments and people), so by washing your hands regularly, you're also helping to protect your pets," says Dr. Richardson. And if pet owners are really inclined, they can wipe their pup's paws with antibacterial wipes, but should do so sparingly as the alcohol can quickly dry out their paws.

Instead of spreading or feeling fear, just embrace the time with your pup and appreciate the stress-reducing, endorphin-boosting benefits that they offer. "We know that stress lowers our immunity, and no one right now wants their immunity lowered," says Gray.

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