New York dog tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, but pet cases remain rare

June 5, 2020
dvm360 Staff

Testing by the USDA confirms that this the first case of the virus in a pet dog in the U.S.

In the first confirmed pet dog case in the U.S., a German shepherd in New York State has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to statement released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).

What happened

In late April, we reported that a pug in North Carolina tested positive for the virus as part of a Duke University surveillance study, but confirmatory testing by the NVSL in late May was unable to verify infection in that dog. “No virus was isolated and there was no evidence of an immune response using the available test,” said NVLS spokesperson Lyndsay Cole in a statement from the agency.

In the current case, one of the German shepherd’s owners had tested positive for COVID-19 and another person in the home had symptoms consistent with the virus prior to the dog showing mild respiratory signs. A second dog in the household has shown no signs of illness, but antibody testing does suggest exposure to the virus, according to the USDA. The affected dog is expected to make a full recovery.

How common is this virus in pets?

SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in a handful of animals worldwide, mostly those that have been in close contact with a person who was sick with COVID-19, like the big cats at the Bronx Zoo and the pet cats in New York State.

Because animal cases are rare, routine testing is still not recommended. State and local animal health and public health officials are working with the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to decide when and how animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2. The USDA says it is posting all NVSL-confirmed animal cases here.

“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,” the USDA statement reads.

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