Animal Welfare Groups Emphasize that Pets Can't Transmit Coronavirus as Misinformation Spreads

A dog in Hong Kong tested 'weak positive' for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) but authorities said there is 'no evidence that pets will get sick from COVID-19 or cause human infections.'

Pets are becoming entangled in the restrictions governments worldwide are suggesting to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but that doesn’t mean your pet has a high risk of getting sick or getting you sick.

According to ABC News, Hong Kong authorities recently announced that residents should refrain from kissing their pets after a dog tested positive for COVID-19 with a “low-level infection.”

A statement from the Hong Kong’s Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department claims that the affected canine, whose owner tested positive for the COVID-19, is likely “a case of human-to-animal transmission,” which led authorities to warn residents about close contact with pets.

Hong Kong authorities said the World Organization for Animal Health is currently investigating the case, which involves a 17-year-old Pomeranian, reports ABC News. The authorities also stressed that the dog tested “weak positive” and that there is “no evidence that pets will get sick from COVID-19 or cause human infections.”

Hong Kong’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement of their own in response to the news about the Hong Kong dog’s “weak positive” test.

“While the information tells us that the dog has a low-level of infection, members of the public should note that the dog is showing no symptoms whatsoever. We have been informed the dog is currently very healthy and doing well at the quarantine center,” the animal welfare organization wrote on Facebook. “Members of the public are advised to differentiate that ‘being infected’ does not equal being infectious and capable of spreading the COVID-19 virus. We wish to remind the public that there is no evidence that companion animals can transmit the disease to humans.”

To prevent panic and misinformation in American pet owners, American Humane, the United States’ oldest animal welfare organization, also spoke out about the effect COVID-19 has on pets, urging pet owners to treat their animals with kindness now more than ever.

“Around the globe, we are seeing confusion and rash action taken in response to the coronavirus,” American Humane’s president and CEO, Dr. Robin Ganzert, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE “Right now, we need people to treat their pets with kindness and compassion. They are not a threat to you or your family.”

According to American Humane, the group is receiving reports of pet owners abandoning or euthanizing their animals over coronavirus fears. The animal welfare organization stresses that these reactions are misinformed and unnecessary. To protect you and your pet from COVID-19, American Humane suggests washing your hands after touching your pet, stocking up necessities for your pet — like food, meds, and litter — in case you are quarantined for several weeks, and staying up to date on the latest advisories and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Masks for dogs, like those for humans, aren’t recommended for preventive use against coronavirus.

“While pictures of Chinese dogs wearing face masks are showing up online, there’s no scientific evidence that these masks protect dogs from either infectious diseases or air pollutants,” Anne Kimmerlein, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM — a veterinary epidemiologist for VCA Animal Hospitalstold PEOPLE. “Dogs’ faces have a lot more variation than human faces do, meaning that a face mask designed to fit one type or breed of dog is unlikely to fit most others. Additionally, we cannot explain to a dog why we are putting something potentially scary or uncomfortable on their face.”

Kimmerlein also added that while there is no evidence that COVID-19 poses a risk for pets, “there are other diseases that can be spread from people to pets and pets to people.”

“It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets, especially those that do not belong to you. Other ways to avoid spreading disease between pets and people include making sure that your pets are up to date on their vaccinations and receive regular parasite control,” she advised. “Additionally, it is not a good idea to feed raw food to cats and dogs as this can put both pets and their owners at risk for common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella.”

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