We know that the family of coronaviridae already exists, for example cats can suffer from Feline enteric coronavirus which causes a self-limiting gastroenteritis and coronavirus can also cause colic in horses. Covid-19 however, is a completely new virus which causes respiratory signs in people, which differs from the GI signs we see in animals.
In March WHO quite literally let the dogs out by stating:
‘While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.’
So, we know that dogs cannot directly spread CV-19, but can their fur act as a fomite the same as plastic or cardboard?
Fur is porous like fabric which means it absorbs and traps virus more easily than a hard surface, the pathogens are stuck to the surface so there is less risk of transmission by touch. Nevertheless, we still need to be careful!
Some simple things we can do to reduce transmission are to keep our dogs on the lead when we are exercising them and make sure we stay at least 2m apart from other dog walkers.
If a dog is from an infected household then someone else must walk the dog and it must keep dog on the lead.
Do not pet other people’s dogs on a walk and don’t let other people pet yours – you don’t know what is on their hands! If you do pet a dog do not touch your face and wash your hands for 20 seconds as soon as you get home.
The government have now said its okay to drive a short distance to exercise your dog, for example to take a reactive dog to a quiet space or hired field.
It’s important to remember that if you are exercising your dog less due to the current restrictions to also feed them less as well!