What happened to Buddy? Can animals get the novel coronavirus and die? Can pets transmit it to their owners?

Families/Kids Infection and Spread

A: Sadly, Buddy, a German Shepherd from Staten Island, NY, recently died. Buddy was the first dog in the US that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (side note: The disease is only called COVID-19 in humans).

Technically, bloodwork confirmed that Buddy likely died from lymphoma. However, it’s hard to know the role that the novel coronavirus had in his passing (either making him more vulnerable to infection or increasing the severity of the symptoms). His last few months were hard. During Buddy’s illness, he had trouble breathing, lost his appetite, and eventually struggled to walk. Other symptoms in mammalian animals with the infection are described by the CDC in the first link below; the symptoms are strikingly similar to those in humans (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing).

According to this National Geographic article, there are fewer than 25 U.S. pets known to have contracted SARS-CoV-2. (Of course, we don’t know about the pets we didn’t test.) Fortunately, most other animals that have tested positive have recovered, and the ones that have died had underlying health issues. There’s a feel-good story about Papille the Parisian cat who got sick. And then, curiously, amid the “Tiger King” craze in April, eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo contracted the virus. All these animals are now symptom free.

The general message is that, as far as we know, prevalence in animals is low, symptoms are mild, and recovery rates are high. While we certainly aren’t testing many animals, there’s not even anecdotal evidence of a lot of pets contracting SARS-CoV-2. Further, thankfully, animals don’t seem to play a role in the transmission of the disease to humans.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the role of the novel coronavirus in animals. The science is continuously developing, and the Dear Pandemic team will stay on the lookout for any important messages about keeping your furry (or feathery or scaly) friends safe and healthy. For now, the safest things you can do for your pets are the same things you can do to protect yourself:

Social distance,

Encourage fresh air flow,

Wear your mask (no mask for the pets), and

Wash your hands!





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