A Dog In The UK Has Covid, So Should Pet Owners Be Worried?

Here's what you need to know about symptoms and testing of coronavirus in your pets.
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The first dog in the UK has tested positive for Covid-19 after apparently catching the virus from its owners. Following a series of tests, the infection was confirmed at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, on November 3.

This isn’t the first animal to become infected with coronavirus though. In 2020, a cat caught Covid from its owners. The infection was again confirmed at the APHA laboratory.

There’s no evidence that the infected dog was involved in the transmission of the disease to its owners or that pets or domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people.

The pup was undergoing treatment for another unrelated condition when the virus was detected, and is now recovering at home.

The dog’s owners tested positive for Covid-19, so it’s believed the dog contracted the virus from its owners. This is the first confirmed case of a dog catching Covid-19 in the UK.

So, should other pet owners be worried about their furry friends catching coronavirus?

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What have studies and experts indicated about coronavirus in pets?

Dr Katherine Russell, consultant medical epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Covid-19 is predominantly spread from person to person but in some situations the virus can spread from people to animals.

“In line with general public health guidance, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.”

Scientists in the Netherlands have found that coronavirus is common in pet cats and dogs where their owners have Covid-19.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow have also researched the prominence of Covid in cats specifically. Sadly, one of the cats the researchers identified with Covid – a four month-old female Ragdoll kitten – died from lung damage as a result of the virus.

Should pet owners be worried?

Most pets will not experience severe symptoms of Covid-19, so owners shouldn’t worry too much.

Commenting after the most recent dog case, the UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “It is very rare for dogs to be infected and they will usually only show mild clinical signs and recover within a few days.”

However, while cases of owners passing on Covid-19 to their pets presents a “negligible” risk to public health, the scientists said there is a “potential risk” that domestic animals could act as a “reservoir” for coronavirus and reintroduce it to humans. Research continues in that area.

How can you tell if your pet has Covid?

Most of the small number of animals that have tested positive for Covid-19 have either not had symptoms, or had mild symptoms that include:

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • A runny nose

  • Weepy eyes

  • Vomiting

  • Mild breathing difficulties

  • High temperature

  • Reduced appetite

  • Diarrhoea

How do they test animals for Covid?

Covid-19 testing for animals requires swabs of the nose, throat and the conjunctiva of the eyes. Covid-19 tests for animals aren’t widely available because they’re being prioritised for use during scientific studies or when an animal is a very high risk (e.g. an endangered species). Therefore Covid tests for animals are given on a case by case scenario.

If you think your pet has covid, contact your vet for more guidance.

How can you keep your pets safe?

Keep following general Covid advice such as washing hands and self-isolating when necessary. The RPSCA advises that you can keep your pets safe by avoiding contact with them if you’ve caught the virus. If you’ve tested positive, avoid petting, snuggling, kissing, sharing food and sleeping in the same bed with them until the virus is gone.

If possible, get another house member to take care of the pet. If you must be in contact with the pet, wear a mask and wash your hands before interacting with them. Masks should not be put on pets.