Pet dog catches Covid in first confirmed case in UK

Pet dog catches Covid in first confirmed case in UK after canine picked up virus from its infected owner

  • Officials believe the dog contracted the virus from its owner
  • Animal suffered only mild symptoms and was swabbed after going to the vets
  • It is now at home making a full recovery after being diagnosed last Wednesday 

The UK Government today confirmed its first case of a pet dog becoming infected with Covid. 

It said the canine’s infection was detected after testing at a laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, on November 3.

The dog is believed to have contracted the virus from its owner, who tested positive days earlier, and it is now recovering at home.

The infection was picked up while the dog was receiving care at the vets for an unrelated condition.

Britain’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss stressed that Covid cases in animals were ‘very rare’.

But while this is the first official case in the UK, there have been several reports of pets getting Covid.

The same laboratory in Weybridge detected coronavirus in a cat last year, but it was never officially confirmed.

And research from the Netherlands suggests that the virus can quite easily be passed from infected owners to their cats and dogs.   

Officials said the dog contracted the virus from its owner. It is now recovering at home (file image)

Dr Middlemiss said: ‘Tests conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency have confirmed that the virus responsible for Covid-19 has been detected in a pet dog in the UK. 

‘The infected dog was undergoing treatment for another unrelated condition and is now recovering.

‘It is very rare for dogs to be infected and they will usually only show mild clinical signs and recover within a few days.

‘There is no clear evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.’

The first pet to test positive for Covid was a 17-year-old Pomeranian arriving in Hong Kong.

The animal was quarantined by officials on arrival. It was only allowed to return home after being declared ‘disease-free’, but died a few days later. 

Scientists from the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, also confirmed two Covid infections in cats and one in a dog between January and February this year.

The animals had their rectum swabbed and the sample was sent to France for analysis.

The dog suffered from lethargy, loss of appetite and diarrhoea during its infection.

A sphynx cat suffered fainting or passing out when it had the virus, while a domestic shorthair was reported to be lethargic.  

Advice from the UK Health Security Agency — which replaced the now-defunct Public Health England — says animals can catch the disease.

It recommend owners should wash their hands before and after contact with their pet, and not share food, food bowls or utensils with the animals.

But there is no evidence that washing pets regularly can control the spread of the virus, they added.   

Dogs and Covid: Q&A 

How do dogs catch coronavirus?

Dogs become infected in the same way as humans do, by inhaling droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

There have been a handful of cases around the world and almost all appear to have caught it off their owners. Luckily, animals are far less susceptible to the virus. 

The first dog to catch Covid was a 17-year-old Pomeranian that tested positive in Hong Kong. It was quarantined by authorities. 

Could cats and other animals get it too?

Yes, there have been cases in cats and other pets around the world. Some animals are particularly susceptible. 

Hundreds of thousands of minks have been slaughtered on farms in Spain and the Netherlands following outbreaks.

Can humans catch Covid from infected pets?

There is no evidence that animals transmit it to humans, with research suggesting they do not ‘shed’ enough virus to be infectious. 

However, Government scientists have warned that animals could act as ‘fomites’, in the same way as surfaces such as door handles do.

For example, if an infected person  coughed on their dog, the virus could survive on its fur and be passed to another person when they stroke it. 

I have tested positive – how can I protect my pet?

Public Health England has urged pet owners to wash their hands before and after contact with animals. The British Veterinary Association advises infected people to restrict contact with animals.

Owners who test positive should also keep cats indoors if possible.

Should I put a mask on my cat or dog?

No! Dr Jenny Stavisky, of the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine, explains: ‘They are likely to find it scary. It may, however, be a good idea to try to acclimatise your pet gently to seeing people wearing masks so they don’t get frightened.’

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