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First US dog diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 dies

2020-7-30 GettyImages-1191242827 Buddy bye-bye - blog.jpg

There have only been three dogs in the world who have officially tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 so far.

Despite a false alarm in April, the only confirmed canine case in the US was Buddy, a pet German shepherd in New York State who was diagnosed in June. The other two dogs were based in Hong Kong; one has died, though nobody knows for sure whether this was due to the novel coronavirus (the owner refused to allow an autopsy).

Now Buddy has the dubious distinction of being the first dog in the US to die after being officially diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, according to an exclusive story in National Geographic.

The magazine reports that Buddy began struggling to breathe in mid-April, shortly before his seventh birthday.

Six weeks later, he was confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2. Medical records provided to National Geographic by Buddy’s owners indicate that Buddy likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, and the “probable” cause of his symptoms. Additional test results confirmed the lymphoma on July 11, the day Buddy died.

It’s unclear whether the cancer made Buddy more susceptible to contracting SARS-CoV-2 or if the virus itself caused his illness. It may have been simply a case of coincidental timing. Either way, health officials held off releasing news of his passing until this week.

J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM, associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, told NEWStat that, while tragic, “The story about Buddy isn’t overly surprising or concerning.”

It shouldn’t be—not to veterinarians or knowledgeable dog owners who’ve been keeping up with the research, anyway.

Weese, a contributing reviewer of AAHA’s Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines, said, “We know dogs can be infected, and we still don’t really know if that poses much of a health risk.”

Additionally, he pointed out that, “It’s unclear whether SARS-CoV-2 played any role in [Buddy’s] death, despite the fact that he had significant underlying disease.”

This calls to mind the dog in Hong Kong who died, a seventeen-year-old Pomeranian one year past the end of the breed’s average life expectancy, and who, like Buddy, had underlying health issues.

“It’s just one more reminder that we can pass this virus to (and maybe from) our pets and that commonsense infection-control practices are indicated to try to limit that,” Weese said.

“With large numbers of people infected in the US, there are likely relatively large numbers of mild or subclinical [novel coronavirus] infections in pets,” he added, “and that probably poses little risk to the broader pet population.”

To date, fewer than 20 pets have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 worldwide.

RIP, Buddy.

Photo credit: © Gettyimages/Ksenia Raykova