Can Dogs Catch Covid? The Ultimate Guide

by | Jul 1, 2022 | General, K9 Health | 0 comments

With Covid-19 transmitting freely around the globe, you may wonder if your dog is at risk. Unfortunately, dogs can catch COVID-19. The virus has infected many animals worldwide (including dogs) with the first animal to test positive being a tiger at the New York Zoo. So, yes, your dog can catch Covid, but thankfully the likelihood is low. This article outlines how dogs can catch covid, how it can affect their well-being, what to do if your pet pooch catches it and how to protect them.

How do dogs catch Covid?

Covid-19 can spread from people to their pets. Just as we can catch Covid through airborne virus droplets or by touching surfaces that have Covid particles on them, dogs can too. It can be as simple as a dog being showered by a Covid sneeze, licking their favourite human or lapping up the leftovers of a Covid infected family. It’s possible for dogs to become quite unwell if they contract the Covid-19 virus, however, this is unlikely.

Can a dog get tested for Covid-19?

At this time, there is no routine Covid-19 testing for dogs. Your veterinarian may be able to perform a swab test for you if you are concerned about Covid. Of course, in the event your dog has Covid, it is possible for the vet to be infected, so it’s prudent to ask your vet for an initial telehealth appointment and then follow their advice in terms of the next steps. It’s also important to let your vet know if you have Covid. You may need to plan for someone else to take your dog to the vet if your dog needs treatment.

What does Covid-19 look like in dogs?

Dogs that have contracted Covid are most likely to have mild symptoms that you can manage at home. Some may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms to watch for if you suspect your dog has come in contact with Covid include:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • tiredness
  • runny nose
  • eye discharge
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea

What to do if your dog has COVID-19

If your dog has contracted Covid-19 there’s no need to panic. Most animals with Covid have mild illnesses and fully recover. Serious illness in dogs is rare. If your dog is unwell, here are some tips to speed up their recovery:

  • Make sure your dog has a warm, clean and dry bed to retreat to.
  • Move your dog’s food and water bowl next to your dog’s bed for ease.
  • Don’t put a mask on your dog, this could be harmful.
  • Don’t use human medication for fever or colds as some of our medicines are toxic to dogs.
  • Don’t use hand sanitiser or other disinfectants on your dog as these can be harmful.
  • Do wash and sanitise your hands after helping your dog.
  • Do wear a mask when in close contact with your dog.
  • Avoid kissing your dog, save cuddles and snuggles for their recovery and don’t sleep in the same bed until they are well.

If your dog’s symptoms get worse and you feel unable to care for them at home, you can call your veterinarian for advice. Most dogs with Covid can be cared for at home.

Should you isolate a dog with Covid?

You should isolate your dog if it has a confirmed or suspected case of Covid 19. This means no trips to the dog park or walks around the neighbourhood. Ideally, you might cordon off a separate area in your house for your dog to recover in, this can help to protect your family members. If this is difficult, then you might choose to have vulnerable members of your family separate themselves from your dog during recovery. Remember to increase your hygiene efforts, washing your hands regularly and cleaning up after your dog.

Make your dog as comfortable as possible during their recovery from COVID-19

Should you vaccinate dogs against COVID-19?

At this time, there are no approved Covid-19 vaccines for animals in Australia. The current advice is that dogs do not require Covid-19 vaccination. Likewise, it is unnecessary to vaccinate other domestic pets. Covid-19 in pets does not present a considerable threat to public health or animal health and us such Covid-19 vaccines for dogs are currently unnecessary. Animal Covid-19 vaccine trials are being carried out in Russia and scientists expect that if an animal vaccine became necessary, it could be widely available in a short time.

What medicine should you give a dog with Covid-19?

You may not need to medicate a dog with Covid-19. Your dog is unlikely to have severe symptoms, if any. Antibiotics are not effective for viral infections and you should not use human medications on dogs as they may not be digestible. So if your dog is suffering from severe symptoms, it’s important to have your veterinarian prescribe a suitable medication based on their presentation. In the meantime, keep your dog as comfortable as possible. Ensure they have access to cold water, consider hand feeding them if they have lost energy and wipe down their foreheads, ears and paws with a cool cloth if they have a fever. You can also put a cool fan on them. Alternatively, if they are shivering, keep them warm with blankets and heating.

Can a dog spread the COVID-19 virus?

The risk of dogs spreading COVID-19 to people is low. There is an absence of firm evidence at this point in time that animals can transmit Covid to humans. However, given Covid is an airborne virus, it seems theoretically possible for people to catch Covid from dogs. It therefore makes sense to remain cautious around a dog with Covid, potentially wear a mask and wash your hands after interactions with your pet.

How to protect your pet if you have Covid-19

If you have COVID-19, it is possible for your dog to catch it from you. Studies suggest dogs aren’t highly vulnerable to Covid, with only four percent of dogs in areas with high numbers of human cases being infected. Of course, it’s possible that pets carrying the virus were non-symptomatic or didn’t need treatment, but regardless, the results are encouraging for our canine friends.

Here are some tips to protect your dog if you have the Covid virus:

  • Isolate yourself from others in your home, including your dog.
  • If possible, arrange for a non-infected household member to care for your dog.
  • Avoid cuddle time, pats and kisses with your pup or wear a mask and sanitise your hands if you cannot.
  • Wash your hands before preparing your dog’s food and don’t share your table scraps.
  • Above all, take care of yourself. Get as much rest as you can and call on others to care for your dog where possible.
  • If you need to be hospitalised, have a plan for who will care for your dog.

If you have COVID-19 and your dog becomes sick, ask for a tele health appointment with your vet for advice. Don’t visit the vet while you’re sick and don’t walk your dog. Your dog will cope for a week without outings. Try tossing their favourite toy from the couch if need be! Ultimately, you can make sure your dog is safe and has their basic needs met. Then put yourself first. Your dog needs you well!

How can I entertain my dog while in isolation?

If you are in isolation because you or a family member has Covid, there are several things you can do to help stimulate and exercise your dog. If you are well enough, try to give your dog some physical activity at the same time as they would usually go for their walk. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Play fetch in the backyard (sun is great for Covid!).
  • Take a box of toys and throw them one at a time from the couch.
  • Put a tennis ball inside a sock and play tug-a-war while keeping your feet up.
  • Hide treats around the room or simply throw them from the couch if you don’t have the energy to move.
  • Blow bubbles for your dog to chase.
  • Teach your dog a new trick.
  • Fill an old plastic water bottle with treats for them to retrieve.
  • Throw a tennis ball up the stairs (an increased workout for your pooch).
  • Play relaxing music in the hope that your pet will chill while you recover.

Can I hire a dog walker if I am in isolation?

Hiring a dog walker to walk your dog while you are in isolation with Covid-19 may seem like a suitable solution for keeping your dog active, but it also increases the potential to spread Covid-19 and put others at risk. So before you seek out your local dog walker, it’s important to know your local rules surrounding household isolation and if your authorities allow dogs out of the house. A quick call to your local council, police station or state health department may help you clarify what’s allowed. Beyond that, there is the ethical question of whether it’s fair to put the dog walker at risk of catching Covid. If you are considering it, it’s important to inform the prospective dog walker that you have Covid-19, so they can assess if they are willing to risk visiting your home or handling your dog. Unless you’re unwell for a prolonged period, it might be safer to restrict your dog to home-based activities until you’re well.

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