The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) announced June 2 the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in a pet dog (German shepherd) in New York state. This is the first dog in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Samples from the dog were taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness. The dog is expected to make a full recovery. One of the dog’s owners tested positive for COVID-19, and another showed symptoms consistent with the virus, prior to the dog showing signs. A second dog in the household has shown no signs of illness; however, antibodies were also identified in that dog, suggesting exposure.
SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in a small number of animals worldwide, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person who was sick with COVID-19. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. State and local animal health and public health officials will work with USDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2, using a One Health approach.
USDA will announce cases of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 in animals each time it is found in a new species. All confirmed cases in animals will be posted at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_one_health/sars-cov-2-animals-us.
The initial dog tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported the results to state and federal officials. The confirmatory testing was conducted at NVSL and included collection of additional samples. NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory and provides expertise and guidance on diagnostic techniques, as well as confirmatory testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases. Such testing is required for certain animal diseases in the U.S. in order to comply with national and international reporting procedures. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and therefore USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE.
While additional animals may test positive as infections continue in people, it is important to note that performing this animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans.
We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus. Based on the limited information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low. There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.
It appears that people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection.
For more information about COVID-19 and animals and recommendations for pet owners, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/animals/pets-other-animals.html
For more information about testing in animals, see https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/faq-public-on-companion-animal-testing.pdf