(Posted 31 March 2020)
Since the beginning of March, 2020, the AFCD has quarantined 17 dogs and 8 cats from owners who had been infected by the Covid-19 virus. Of these, only 2 dogs initially tested positive on nasal/oral swabs using a PCR test, a test which detects the actual virus. The first dog, a Pomeranian, eventually tested negative on days 16 and 17 of its quarantine. The second dog, a German Shepherd, tested negative on day 6 of its quarantine. Neither dog ever showed symptoms of the disease.
The Pomeranian also tested weakly positive on a serology test, while the serology test for the German Shepherd is pending. The serology test showed the Pomeranian had been exposed to the virus and its immune system had mounted a mild response to it. This indicates that the virus was not simply sitting on the surface of the dog's nose/mouth. It would appear the virus can infect dogs but it is not very good at it and the viral load involved is likely too low for dogs to be infectious to people. It would also appear infections in dogs do not last very long. The Pomeranian was 17 years old and was on treatment for both heart and kidney problems and unfortunately died several days after being released from quarantine.
None of the animals quarantined in Hong Kong have shown any clinical signs and there is no evidence that any of the animals are infectious to people. All of the evidence suggests the 2 dogs which tested positive were infected by their owners.
There has been only one case of a cat, reported recently in Belgium, which is believed to have become infected and showed clinical signs. It is believed the cat was infected by its owner. Infection has not been confirmed and information about this case is still forthcoming.
During the SARS outbreak, the SARS virus was found on the coats of some pets of infected persons, however the animals were not considered infectious due to the low viral load.
Pet owners are urged to wash their hands and face before and after playing with their pets. When walking your dog/s, please attempt to minimize contact with other dogs and people. Remember the most likely way pets are going to be exposed to the virus is from their owners or other people they come in contact with. There is no cause for alarm, and you may still safely interact with your pet.
The Hong Kong Veterinary Association
C/o Medcom Limited, 10/F, Ka Ming Court, Flat E8
688-690 Castle Peak Road, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon