By this time, most of the Internet is aware of Winston the Pug, the first dog in the United States to test positive for the COVID-19 virus. Winston’s family is part of a study by Duke University looking at the community prevalence of COVID-19. Three out of four people in the household tested positive for the virus, so when Winston developed a low grade cough, fever, and inappetence, the family was not surprised that Winston tested positive, too.
Two cats in New York have also tested positive. Both were tested because they were showing symptoms. One lives with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the people in the other cat’s household tested negative.
Winston and the housecats who tested positive for COVID-19 developed mild symptoms and recovered uneventfully with supportive care. Two animals live with at least one person who has been documented to be infected with the virus. The cat whose household tested negative is indoor/outdoor and his contacts cannot be traced. We already knew that cats MIGHT be susceptible, because cats have a cellular receptor in the lining of their lungs that is very similar in structure to the receptor that COVID-19 binds to in the human. Finding an active infection in a dog is a little more surprising, however brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs have a number of unique qualities to the structure of their airways that increase the likelihood of chronic low-grade inflammation and might predispose to infections that most dogs are resistant to.
Thus far, we have little reason to believe that casual contact with people or the environment will cause dogs or cats to become infected with COVID-19. It appears that close/prolonged contact with an infected, virus- shedding human is required for infection to occur. There is no evidence at this point to indicate that dogs or cats are capable of shedding enough virus to infect a human, a dog, or a cat.
Keep walking your dogs, it’s good for both of you!