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First dog to test positive for coronavirus dies

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That’s the dog.

The one in Hong Kong who tested “weak positive” for SARS-CoV-2 on February 28. And again on February 29. And again on March 2, and yet again on March 5.

According to the South China Morning Post, the dog passed away on Monday after he was returned home following a government quarantine and a negative test. The dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, belonged to a 60-year-old woman who was diagnosed with—and recovered from—COVID-19.

A spokesman for the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) told the South China Morning Post that the department learned of the dog’s passing on March 16. “The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death,” the spokesman added. (The AFCD had not responded to NEWStat’s request for comment by the time of publication.)

After repeatedly testing “weak positive” for the virus via nasal, oral, and blood samples, the dog finally tested negative on March 12 and was sent home.

The dog, who outlived a Pomeranian’s average 9- to-16-year life expectancy and had underlying health issues, probably did not die from the virus, according to medical sources close to the case, who told the South China Morning Post, “It is very unlikely the virus had any contribution to the death of the dog.”

The dog, whose infection was discovered in February, is believed to be the first known case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus. And despite repeated assurances from health organizations that pets are safe from COVID-19, stories about the late Pomeranian continue to inspire confusion, panic, and fear among pet owners.

NEWStat contacted Jennifer Ogeer, DVM, MSc, MBA, MA, vice president of Medical Affairs for Antech Diagnostics, to get her take.

“There is currently no evidence that dogs or cats can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans,” Ogeer said. “While reports indicate healthy dogs in Hong Kong living with COVID-19-diagnosed owners tested positive for the coronavirus, this is likely contamination only. It does not mean a dog is infectious. There’s a big difference. The presence of the virus on the mucosal surface of a dog is no different than a virus on the surface on a table.”

Ogeer noted that this is in keeping with current thinking by the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, among other health organizations. “[All three] affirm there’s currently no scientific evidence that dogs and cats can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 or transmit the virus to humans,” she said.

But this doesn’t mean the question of whether or not a dog can catch COVID-19 has been definitively answered.

Today, the AFCD announced that another dog has repeatedly tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The new case involves a German shepherd dog whose owner was diagnosed with COVID-19. That dog was sent for quarantine with another dog from the same residence yesterday (March 18). No positive results were obtained from the mixed-breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of disease.

The AFCD plans to continue monitoring both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals.

Stay tuned . . .

Photo credit: © iStock/FootToo