Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses, not a single strain. These viruses are prevalent in mammals and birds and usually cause respiratory symptoms. The flu and common colds are both examples of common coronaviruses in humans. While both of these are quite minor, there are other strains that are more serious.
Sometimes, coronaviruses can mutate to jump between species. That’s exactly what happened in China in 2019 and 2020 when a virus was discovered. Because this virus was completely new, humans did not have any immunity to it, which made it very contagious and serious in certain at-risk groups. This coronavirus was named CORVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2.
Because canines are mammals, it is possible that this coronavirus can mutate and infect them as well. While there are not any reported cases of this happening yet, it is always a possibility as it continues to spread.
What is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
This particular coronavirus strain was discovered in China at the end of 2019. Scientist think this strain mutated from a particular virus carried by animals and became able to infect humans. We don’t know exactly what animal this virus originated from. However, it does bear similar genetic materials to a common virus in bats, so they are the likely source.
Of course, you cannot catch the coronavirus from bats, since the virus they have is slightly different and cannot infect humans. Instead, it is likely their virus mutated and infected a human, which started the outbreak.
Because the coronavirus is completely new, humans have no immunity to it. While you can get exposed to the flu many times a year but never become infected, this is not necessarily the case with COVID-19. If you get the virus in your mouth or nose, it is likely you will become infected.
COVIC-19 also latches on to receptors deeper in the lungs than colds or the flu do, which is why it often causes shortness of breath and phenomena.
Common Symptoms of the Canine Coronavirus
While this coronavirus is not reported to spread to cats or dogs, if it does, it is likely pets will experience respiratory symptoms, just like people. Alternatively, COVID-19 might cause digestion issues like diarrhea, like some other coronaviruses do.
However, coronaviruses typically do not harm dogs nearly as bad as they can harm humans. In fact, most dogs with other strains of coronaviruses don’t display any symptoms at all. Instead, they are completely asymptomatic, though they can still spread the coronavirus to other people and animals.
Respiratory canine coronaviruses are particularly benign in dogs, with most animals not showing symptoms at all.
Dogs under the age of 6 months are most at risk of dying from these conditions, with deaths above that age being rare.
How is Canine Coronavirus spread?
Similarly to humans, canines catch the coronavirus when the virus comes into contact with their nose, eyes, or mouth. Typically, humans catch it when they touch something with the virus on it and then touch their face.
However, dogs obviously don’t have hands, so this isn’t a problem for them. Instead, dogs often catch coronaviruses when they eat infected foods. Dogs often tend to rub their face in the dirt and other unclean areas, where the coronavirus might be located.
Transmission usually happens when a dog sniffs or eats infected fecal matter. Of course, if you have COVID-19 and it mutates to infect dogs, coughing in your dog’s face can also cause them to get the virus.
There is one account of a human spreading a coronavirus disease to a canine in Hong Kong on March 5th, 2020. However, the dog was practically asymptomatic and the disease did not spread further. This is the only known case of a dog potentially getting COVID-19 from a human.
Risk factors for contracting the disease include being young, staying in a shelter or kennel, visiting groomers, dog parks, or other locations with lots of dogs, and living in a home with multiple animals.
Typically, the incubation period for coronaviruses is one to three days. The dog can be contagious for up to six months following the infection but is usually most contagious around six to nine days after getting exposed.
How long can Canine Coronavirus survive in the environment?
With this new coronavirus, we aren’t exactly sure how long it can survive on surfaces, especially if it begins infecting dogs. The particularly temperature and humidity also play a vital role.
Because it survives better in colder temperatures, Canine Coronavirus is more common in winter than in summer.
How to protect your Pet against the COVID-19 virus
Based on all this information, there are a few things you should consider doing to protect your furry friend from the COVID-19 virus. While this virus has not yet mutated to infect dogs, it could at any moment.
The most important thing you can do is avoid large gatherings of dogs if and when the virus mutates. Dogs often get infected from the contaminated fecal matter of other dogs. So, avoiding places where infected dogs might have used the bathroom can go a long way to prevent contamination.
If you get infected with the coronavirus, the CDC is currently recommending temporarily finding a different caregiver for your dog while you undergo quarantine. Preferably, your dog should stay with a different family member, avoiding kennels and locations where many dogs are kept at once.
If you cannot find a different place for your pet to stay, avoid coming into contact with your pet as much as possible. Now is not the time for snuggles on the couch. You should also be certain to follow the recommended cleaning advice to avoid a buildup of the virus on your home’s surfaces. You should avoid letting your pet lick you.
Most importantly, you should wash your hands before and after handling your dog. This is especially vital because even if your dog isn’t infected, they can still pass on the virus to others through particulates on their fur.
Luckily, there are also vaccinations available for certain coronavirus strains. These vaccinations will not work against COVID-19, but are important to ensure your dog does not get sick with two different diseases at once.
There are many different types of coronaviruses. Dogs are susceptible to some of them, and typically experience gastrointestinal symptoms when they catch them. While there have been no reports of dogs or cats catching COVID-19, the virus might mutate and begin to infect them at any time.
We don’t know exactly what symptoms your dog might experience if they get this disease. They may experience stomach upset, respiratory problems, or no symptoms at all.
Currently, the risk of your pet getting COVID-19 is extremely low. Basic hygiene measures, like keeping your house clean, will go a long way to preventing spread of the disease.