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No evidence pets can get, spread COVID-19 even after dog in Hong Kong tested weak positive

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MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Reports of a dog in Hong Kong testing ‘weak positive’ for a virus that causes the COVID-19 coronavirus had some pet owners worried. The dog’s owner had already contracted COVID-19, which begs the question could our pets get the COVID-19 and spread it?

Veterinarians say there are a number of coronavirus strains that affect dogs, and they’ve been around for years, but those that affect your pet aren't the same as the one affecting people now.

Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital says canine coronavirus can sometimes be found in dogs that have kennel cough. The hospital says cats are less prone to developing respiratory illnesses.

“It’s part of the respiratory disease complex, causes some flu-like symptoms in dogs, coughing and what not,” said Dr. Denise Follett of Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital and Exotic Care, Inc.

Canine coronavirus is not the same as COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, being transmitted from person-to-person right now.

“Do I need to isolate or quarantine them? Do I need to give them any medicine? What is the risk to me if they become ill?” asked dog owner, Irmine Reitl. 

Those are questions Dr. Denise Follett says she’s getting daily from pet parents since the COVID-19 outbreak, but pet owners don’t have to worry. The CDC says no animals in the United States have been identified with the virus, and the World Health Organization says there is no evidence that dogs or other pets can contract or spread COVID-19.

“At this point we say no, but time will tell. This is very new, but I think at this moment, no, it is not of concern,” adds Dr. Follett.

Pet parents say they’re relieved to hear their furry friends will be okay.

”I don’t have a lot of concerns about it now, especially since we have such a low case right here in the state of Wisconsin at this point,” said Reitl. “But if in time there’s research that says I need to be concerned about it, I’ll be back here at the vet’s office.”

The spread of COVID-19 could have a potential effect on pets a different way. The Humane Society of the United States says animal shelters should prepare for possible higher intake, because people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 may not have family or friends to take care of their pets.

Still, veterinarians want to stress as of now there’s no proof pets can get or spread COVID-19. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Dr. Follett says there has been no increase in cases of canine coronavirus in the country.  

”It’s something we don’t want people to panic over,” said Dr. Follett. “We want them to be aware about it themselves, but they shouldn’t have any stress about their pet getting it.”

Dr. Follett says if your dog is experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, quarantine your pet from other animals and see a vet immediately. 

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