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Pet owners should not panic about the dog that died after COVID-19 infection


How do dogs respond to COVID-19?

Getty / Darian Traynor

The coronavirus the pandemic is often discussed in terms of waves. The first wave, the second wave. Pandemic information works similarly, particularly as scientists learn more about how the disease spreads and who – or what – becomes infected.

Many companion animals tested positive for COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic. In March, a 17-year-old dog in Hong Kong was infected. He later died, but COVID-19 was not thought to be the main cause. Tigers at the Bronx Zoo were also found to be infected, likely from human management who also tested positive for the disease. The animals were expected to make a full recovery.

Pet owners have long been concerned their pets may catch or spread COVID-19. After I published story on COVID-19 in pets back in May, I was informed of requests for information and assistance. “Can my dogs get a coronavirus? And if they do what should I do?!? How do I know and can I kill them !!?” one reader asked via email. Another asked if they should be careful to transfer COVID-19 between homes and the cats they care for. Based on the scientific evidence accumulated on pets related to COVID-19 animals, it appeared that many had nothing to worry about – a very small number of companion animals were infected.

But a recent story about the death of a dog in the United States has felt significant confusion.

On Wednesday, National Geographic published a core story story about Buddy, a recently deceased seven-year-old German Shepherd man, months after he was infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID- 19. It is a well-researched, well-written and timely piece, giving a second look at how COVID-19 can affect pets.

According to the report, Buddy fell ill with COVID-19 in mid-April. He tested positive for the disease in June, the first dog in the United States to be tested positive. On July 11, he died. However, medical records showed Buddy “probably had lymphoma, a type of cancer.” Lymphoma is a common cancer for dogs that affects the lymph nodes. However, this important point was not passed on in the title of the story, which caused a flurry of similar news to appear online.


The COVID-19 moment was trending on Thursday.


A day after the story broke on National Geographic, Twitter posted a moment titled “The first dog in the United States that tested positive for COVID-19 died.”

There is nothing intrinsically untrue about this news. They are factual: Buddy I did Positive test for COVID-19. But the cause of his death was definitely not linked to the disease. He also did not test positive for the disease at the time of his death.

“There are many things out there that are a greater risk to dogs and cats than COVID-19,” says Glenn Browning, a veterinary microbiologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

But as often happens in the media storm surrounding the coronavirus, the nuance is lost in the news, causing unnecessary fear and panic. Buddy, according to the blood work performed after his death, “almost certainly” had lymphoma.

“This seems to have been a dog that was very seriously compromised in the first place,” Browning notes.

But as the Nat Geo piece rightly points out, there is a lack of information on how COVID-19 affects dogs and cats. This is the central point of this story: We need more information on how COVID-19 can affect cats and dogs and we need more transparent reporting on symptoms and potential treatments for animals. infected.

But it hasn’t been sold this way and, in a pandemic where bad information is constantly being tapped on social media with little scrutiny, that’s a problem because news organizations follow through, and continue to leave the initial confusion.

As far as scientists are aware, animal friends do not appear to play a role in the transmission of COVID-19. Owners of COVID-19 may be able to infect their pets, but the transfer of the animal to humans has not been recorded.

“There is absolutely no evidence that animal friends play a role in the epidemiology of this disease,” said Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. told CNET in May. Browning agrees.

“It is clear that it can sometimes cause disease in dogs,” he says. “What worries me is that people start treating dogs as a cause for concern for human infection and that’s nonsense.”

The official advice from the CDC is to “limit the interaction of their pets with people outside their home.” It also suggests restricting contact with pets and animals if you are sick. If your pet becomes ill, call your veterinarian and let them know that you are sick with COVID-19.

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