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Within the past few months, COVID-19 has spread at an alarming rate to become a true global pandemic. As of March 2020, it has affected over 250,000 people worldwide. Many of us are rightfully concerned, but one question that still haunts pet owners is: can our pets contract the virus?
Millions of people across the globe have animals. Some are domestic companions. Others are service dogs to assist their owners in their day-to-day activities, or therapy dogs to provide emotional support.
This is a serious question that deserves attention. While no definitive answer can yet be given, the general consensus among health experts is: probably not.
Lack of Evidence
This answer might not sound entirely reassuring, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence to support the theory that pets can contract or spread COVID-19. While the virus is affecting thousands of people worldwide, the CDC has received no reports of animals becoming sick.
The CDC also pointed out that there is a significant lack of evidence to even suggest that imported animals or products can spread COVID-19.
Despite this claim, there is one supposed case of a dog in China contracting the disease. A 17-year-old Pomeranian tested positive during quarantine before dying three days later. However, experts were quick to downplay any potential panic, pointing out that the dog took the test multiple times before receiving a “weak” positive result. It was very old, to begin with, and was also suffering from several other health conditions. Furthermore, there was a second dog in the house who continuously tested negative. Some experts claim the Pomeranian easily could have been in shock and died from the stress of being quarantined.
Other cases have been reported recently, like that of a German Shepherd from Hong Kong Island, but some factor or other always throws the possibility of positive testing in doubt.
Regardless of these cases, health specialists are taking a firm stance on the “probably not” theory.
Dr. Karina Ballester of the American Veterinary Medicine Association and Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease, both want to reassure pet owners that they should not worry due to the lack of scientific proof that pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans.
Having studied various strands of the coronavirus for decades, virologist Dr. John Williams even goes as far as calling the possibility of an animal to human transference “nonsense.”
Our Best Friends
When it comes to pet owners and their animals, there does not seem to be any cause for alarm, at least not yet. However, there are still preventative measures we can take to help flatten the curve. For example, stay away from dog parks. Practice social distancing and go for a long walk or jog instead.
Now is the time for self-isolation. Stay at home, avoid unnecessary risks, and find solace and comfort in the company of our pets. As the saying goes, they are our best friends after all.
About the Author
Nathaniel Whelan has an M.A. from Carleton University and a diploma in Professional Writing from Algonquin College. When he is not serving coffee at his local Starbucks, he can be found reading, writing, or buried under a pile of LEGO. He currently lives in Ottawa with his partner and pet cats Goose and Loki.
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