Several companion animals tested positive for COVID-19 during the first days of the pandemic. In March, a 17-year-old dog became infected in Hong Kong. He later died, but COVID-19 was not thought to be the main cause., probably from a human manipulator who also tested positive for the disease. The animals were expected to fully recover.
Pet owners have long been concerned that their pets may catch or spread COVID-19. After I postedback in May, I was flooded with requests for information and help. “Can my dogs get coronavirus? And if they do what can I do?!? How do I know and can I kill them !!?” asked a reader by email. Another asked if they should be careful to transfer COVID-19 between households and cats they care for. Based on the scientific evidence accumulated on COVID-19 related to pets, it seems that many of them have nothing to worry about – a very small number of companion animals have been infected.
But a recent story of a dog’s death in the United States has caused considerable confusion.
On Wednesday, National Geographic published a gruesome story about Buddy, a seven-year-old German Shepherd who recently died months after contracting SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This is a well-researched, well-written and timely piece that takes a second look at how COVID-19 can affect pets.
According to the report, Buddy contracted COVID-19 in mid-April. He tested positive for the disease in June, the first dog in the United States to be tested positive. He died on July 11. However, medical records show that Buddy “probably had lymphoma, a type of cancer.” Lymphoma is a common cancer in dogs that affects the lymph nodes. However, this important point was not transferred to the title of the story, which led to the emergence of noise from such titles on the Internet.
A day after the story erupted on National Geographic, Twitter posted a moment titled “The first dog in the United States to test positive for COVID-19 has died.”
There is nothing inherently false in these titles. They are, in fact: Be I did positive test for COVID-19. But the cause of his death is not definitively related to the disease. He also did not test positive for the disease at the time of his death.
“There are many things that are more at risk for dogs and cats than COVID-19,” says Glenn Browning, a veterinary microbiologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
But as often happens in the media storm that surrounds the coronavirus, the nuance is lost in the headlines, causing unnecessary fear and panic. According to the blood work done after his death, Buddy “almost certainly” had lymphoma.
“It sounds like a dog that was very seriously compromised in the first place,” Browning said.
But as the song Nat Geo rightly points out, there is no information on how COVID-19 affects dogs and cats. This is the main point of this story: We need more information on how COVID-19 can affect cats and dogs, and we need more transparent reporting of symptoms and potential treatments for infected animals.
But it was not sold that way in a pandemic where disinformation is constantly thrown on social media with little control, which is a problem because other news organizations are following suit, intensifying the initial confusion.
As far as scientists know, companion animals do not appear to play a role in the transmission of COVID-19. Owners who have COVID-19 may be able to infect their pets, but the transfer of a pet has not been registered.
“There is absolutely no evidence that companion animals play any role in the epidemiology of this disease,” said Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory., Browning agrees.
“Clearly, it can very often cause disease in dogs,” he says. “What worries me is that people are starting to treat dogs as a cause for concern about human infection, and that’s complete nonsense.”
The official advice from the CDC is “to limit the interaction of your pet with people outside their household.” It also offers to limit contact with pets and animals if you are sick. If your pet becomes ill, call your veterinarian and let them know that you have COVID-19.