Can Dogs Get COVID-19? Symptoms, Risks, and Prevention

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: July 13, 2022
© EVGENII LEONTEV/Shutterstock.com
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The COVID-19 pandemic was a very stressful and worrying time for everyone. These days we are learning to live alongside this new disease. At the height of the crisis, many of us turned to our four-legged friends to keep us company. As we already know that the coronavirus can be transmitted from one species to another, it is only natural that we are now asking can dogs get COVID-19? This question is important for both our own health and our dogs’ health.

The simple answer is yes, dogs can get COVID-19 but there is no need to be concerned. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is a serious health issue for dogs (it causes no symptoms or only mild symptoms). There is also no evidence that they can transmit it to humans. It is more likely that humans have infected their pets. By adopting sensible hygienic precautions such as hand washing, you can protect both your pet and other family members.

Canines and Coronaviruses

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are not new. They have been causing illness in humans for hundreds of years and the virus that causes many common colds in humans is also a coronavirus.

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We also know that dogs can contract coronaviruses, and one in particular, the canine respiratory coronavirus, is common in dogs. This is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in humans but it is related. Studies have shown that more than half of the dog population in the US have been exposed to it at some time. It causes an acute respiratory disease and often forms co-infections with bacteria such as Bordetella bronchiseptica to produce respiratory illness that we call kennel cough.

Dogs of all ages and breeds can get it but it spreads most easily where large numbers of dogs are housed together, like in boarding kennels and rescue centers. The symptoms are coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge but, in some cases, it can lead to pneumonia.

There are some rare reports of the canine respiratory coronavirus being found in humans in Malaysia. However, it is not known if it made them ill.

The important point is that we know that dogs can become infected with a coronavirus and so it seems plausible that they could become infected with COVID-19, too.

dog in facemask
Dogs can catch coronaviruses, so it’s possible they could be vulnerable to COVID-19.

©Daria Lixovetckay/Shutterstock.com

Can Dogs Get COVID-19?

Yes, there have been reports of the COVID-19 virus being found in dogs. Given that we spend so much time in close proximity to our dogs and that we already know that they can carry other types of coronaviruses, this should not come as a surprise.

The first ever recorded case of a possible COVID-19 infection in a dog was a pug in March 2020 called Winston who lives in North Carolina. Winston’s human family included two frontline health care workers and several members of the family had tested positive. However, further testing by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service showed that there was so little virus found on the mouth swab submitted by Winston that it was probably just environmental contamination that he had picked up in the home from licking surfaces. Also, his body had produced no antibodies to the virus so there was no evidence that he actually had a COVID-19 infection.

Cases of COVID-19 in Dogs

At around the same time, researchers in Hong Kong found COVID-19 in samples submitted by two dogs. Again, the dogs, one of which was a Pomeranian, lived with humans who had the disease. This time, the dogs had produced antibodies, indicating that they had been infected. Neither of the dogs showed any signs or symptoms of illness.

The researchers concluded that this was “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission”. They carried out further tests on both cats and dogs who lived in households where there were positive human cases but found no further cases in animals. They concluded that “these findings indicate that dogs and cats are not infected easily with this virus, and there is no evidence that they play a role in the spread of the virus.”

In November 2021, the first case of COVID-19 in a pet dog in the UK was reported. This dog was being treated for another condition at the time and the virus was found in a routine sample. Again, it is thought that the dog caught the disease from humans in the household and the UK Chief Veterinary Office said, “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.”

dog with corona toy
There is no clear evidence at this time COVID-19 is transmissible from dogs to humans.

©Bernhard Staehli/Shutterstock.com

Can Dogs Give COVID to Humans?

There is no evidence that dogs can give COVID-19 to humans by licking them or breathing on them. Also, there are no known cases of humans picking up the disease from petting a dog. In all of the reported cases of COVID-19 in dogs, it is thought that the humans gave it to the dogs. This is not surprising because the environment within the home is likely to become contaminated with virus particles when there is a human with the disease. Dogs like to explore the environment and their human companions by licking, so it is easy to see how they could pick up the disease.

In theory, it could be possible for an infected dog to give the disease to a human, but the chances of this are thought to be extremely low.

You should never attempt to put a mask on a dog because this can present a risk of strangulation and choking. It can also be very distressing to a dog.

Also, you should never attempt to disinfect your dog’s coat using cleaning chemicals, hand sanitizers or any other sort of surface cleaner. All of these products can be highly toxic to dogs.

However, it is sensible to take basic hygienic precautions in relation to your dog to help prevent the transmission of other pathogens. These include washing your hands after petting your dog and after clearing up their poop and using separate containers and utensils for dog food and human food.

This is especially important if there are members of the household who are very young, very old or who have a compromised immune system.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in Dogs

So few dogs have been infected with COVID-19 that there are no comprehensive lists of symptoms. Experts suspect that most dogs will have no symptoms at all. Those that do get ill will have only a mild illness.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, dogs that do get sick with the virus may suffer from coughing, fever, shortness of breath, lethargy, a runny nose and sneezing. They may also have vomiting or diarrhea. However, it is important to note that these symptoms are common in many other canine illnesses.  So, if your dog has a cough, it does not mean that it is definitely COVID-19. You should take them to your vet so that the cause can be investigated.

dog sick
Before assuming your dog’s cough is due to COVID-19, carefully review all the other symptoms. Take your dog to the vet if necessary to be sure.

©GoodFocused/Shutterstock.com

How to Protect Your Dog From COVID-19

It is sensible to take measures to protect your dog from COVID-19 as you would for any other member of the family. This may include avoiding close contact with them whilst you are infectious. Monitor your dog for signs of illness and take them to see your vet if you have any concerns.

The American Kennel Club offers the following advice:

  • Ask another member of your household to care for your dog whilst you are ill
  • Avoid kissing and snuggling with your dog whilst you have the infection
  • If you have to be in close contact with your dog, try to wear a face mask
  • Wash your hands before and after you interact with your dog
  • Use pet wipes on their paws
  • Use a pet safe disinfectant on hard surfaces and wash bedding and other affected household items regularly

Can You Test a Dog for COVID-19?

There is no routine testing of dogs for COVID-19 and you cannot purchase a test for a dog. You also cannot use a human COVID-19 test for a dog.

If you are concerned about your dog’s health, consult your vet. They will investigate the illness and will decide what laboratory tests they need, if any.

What You Should Do if Your Dog Has COVID-19

If your vet has tested your dog for COVID-19 and the sample was positive, there is no need to panic! However, it is wise to take some basic precautions. Simply follow the same hygienic procedures that you would follow if a human member of the family had COVID-19.

Try to isolate your pet by reducing the contact that they have with the humans and other pets in the family. Wash your hands thoroughly after interacting with your dog.

COVID-19 is likely to be a very mild illness in your dog and there is every reason to be confident that they will make a full recovery very soon. If you do notice that their health is deteriorating, contact your vet for further advice immediately.

Find out more about canine health conditions in these informative articles:

The 5 Ways Dogs Get Mange, and How to Help Them Heal

If Your Dog Has Parvo, This Is How They Got It and How to Treat It

What Is Kennel Cough: The 6 Ways Dogs Get It, Signs and Symptoms, and How to Treat It

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is there a COVID vaccination for dogs?

There is no COVID vaccination currently available for dogs. There are also none planned for the immediate future. This is because COVID-19 is not currently a significant threat to canine health. Very few dogs have contracted it despite being in close contact with humans who have the disease. Also, the dogs that have been found to be carrying the virus have either had no symptoms at all or very mild symptoms.

How do dogs get COVID-19?

There is no clear evidence on how dogs get COVID-19 but it is likely that they pick it up from their human companions. The virus can survive for a short while in the environment and on hands etc. So, when a dog licks a surface in the home or a human’s hands, they could become infected.

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