Raleigh, NC State officials on Tuesday reported the first confirmed case of coronavirus in a dog that died last week at North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus was confirmed by both the hospital laboratory and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. The cause of the dog’s death is still undetermined.
The dog was sent to NC State on Aug. 3 after showing signs of respiratory distress, officials said. The owner told staff at the veterinary hospital that a family member had previously tested positive for coronavirus.
“It would be a fair assumption that the virus came from the family to the animal, but that does not mean that this is what caused the disease or this is what caused the death of this patient,”; said Dr. Steven Marks, associate dean and director of Veterinary Medical Services at NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (APHIS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, there is no evidence that pets play an important role in the spread of the virus.
“Dogs you’ve seen across the U.S., and cats that are also positive, they should have been exposed somewhere,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams. “Chances are, because of the widespread transmission of the community among people, they are probably exposed to infected people, and that is how they came in contact with the virus.”
In April, a hat in Chapel Hill was believed to have tested positive for the virus in one of the first U.S. cases of a virus-infected pet. But further tests later showed that the dog probably never had the virus, even though family members carried this house.
“There is no indication at this time that dogs can transmit the virus to other animals, so there is no justification in taking action against companion animals that could endanger their well-being,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Meckes in a statement.
Still, state and federal officials plan to evaluate other pets in the dog house that died to determine if animal-to-animal transmission may have occurred.
Only 13 other dogs nationwide have tested positive for coronavirus, according to APHIS, including a second in North Carolina.
“I think this is hopefully a rare event but certainly not something that is out of the realm of possibility,” Williams said.
If pet owners are concerned about the health of their dog or cat, officials said, they should contact their veterinarian and discuss the pet’s symptoms before taking them to a veterinary office.
“The pet is a family member, and it also scares me if my daughter gets it, but that ‘s just part of what we’re facing now,” said local pet owner Diana Salazar.