North Carolina Pug Believed to Be First Dog in U.S. to Test Positive for the Coronavirus

The pug experienced a mild case of the virus and reportedly recovered within a few days

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A pug in North Carolina has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and is likely the first known case of COVID-19 in an American dog.

The dog, Winston, was tested during a study conducted by Duke University in which his whole family, the McLeans, were tested for the new respiratory virus, NBC reported.

"They all came out to our house and did blood samples," the family's mother, Heather McLean, a pediatrician at Duke, told WRAL of the study, which took place on April 1. "For the humans, they swabbed our noses as well as our mouths, and for the animals they did oral swabs for both dogs and the cat."

Heather, her husband Samuel, her son Ben, and Winston all tested positive, while her daughter Sydney, another dog, and a cat tested negative. Samuel, works in the emergency room at UNC Hospitals, according to WRAL.

Dr. Chris Woods, the lead investigator of the Duke study, believes Winston is the first known positive case in a dog in the U.S.

According to Heather, Winston experienced mild symptoms of illness before receiving a positive test result and recovered within a few days.

"Pugs are a little unusual in that they cough and sneeze in a very strange way," she explained. "So it almost seems like he was gagging, and there was one day when he didn’t want to eat his breakfast, and if you know pugs you know they love to eat, so that seemed very unusual."

"Hopefully we’ll learn more through the research study, and I think because there’s not a lot of studies and sampling pets, we just don’t know yet. My advice is just not to get too worried about it," she advised worried pet owners.

Ben said that he wasn't surprised their pug had contracted the virus.

"[Winston] licks all of our dinner plates and sleeps in my mom’s bed, and we’re the ones who put our faces into his face. So, it makes sense that he got [the coronavirus]," Ben told WRAL.

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Last week, two cats in New York became the first pets in the U.S. to contract the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and the United States Department of Agriculture announced in a joint statement that both felines are expected to make a full recovery.

The CDC also reiterated that "there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States."

"Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare," their statement said. "Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected."

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Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC, World Health Organization, and the American Veterinary Medical Association have maintained that there is no evidence that domestic pets can spread COVID-19 to their owners or to other humans.

Dr. Douglas Kratt, who is the president-elect of the AVMA, urged pet owners to keep calm and "not overreact."

Since the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in animals appears to be low, Dr. Kratt told PEOPLE earlier this month that "it’s highly unlikely we're going to transmit it [COVID-19] to our pets, and it's even more unlikely that our pets would transmit it back. There's so much evidence of person-to-person infections that we're seeing versus the number of confirmed cases that people have given it to animals."

The veterinarian added that the amount of coronavirus testing for pets is low, but that the animals who have contracted COVID-19 so far were "being cared for by people that actively had the COVID-19 virus" and were "in an environment where they were more at risk."

"I want people to remain calm. I don’t want them surrendering their animals because they’re concerned about coronavirus. I want them to work with their veterinarian to come up with a great plan," he added. "And in all honesty, a great resource is The AVMA is updating its front page daily with new information with respect to COVID-19 and animals and how to handle it."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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