WASHINGTON (AFP) – The first dog to test positive for coronavirus in the United States has died, National Geographic magazine reported, after struggling with symptoms that may be familiar to many of those infected with the virus.
Seven-year-old German shepherd Buddy fell ill in April, about the same time his owner Robert Mahoney was recovering from COVID-19, according to the magazine this week.
Buddy appeared to have a stuffy nose and had difficulty breathing, and his condition only worsened over the next few weeks and months.
Mahoney and his wife Allison, who live in New York, eventually euthanized the dog on July 11 after Buddy began vomiting blood clots, urinating blood and was unable to walk.
But the family told National Geographic they were having a hard time confirming their suspicion that Buddy was infected with SARS-CoV-2.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I thought (Buddy) was positive,” Mahoney said, but many vets in their area were shut down due to the pandemic.
Some of them were skeptical about pets contracting the virus at all. And most of the test supplies were being conserved for human use anyway.
One clinic was finally able to confirm that Buddy was positive, and found that the family’s 10-month-old cub – who was never sick – had antibodies to the virus.
Buddy’s clothing later revealed the dog was also likely to suffer from lymphoma, raising the question of whether animals – like humans – with pre-existing conditions may also be more susceptible to serious diseases from the young coronavirus.
Neither public health officials nor veterinarians could provide much information to the family, they told National Geographic because there was insufficient data on the virus in animals, beyond the fact that the infection appeared to be rare.
“We have had zero knowledge or experience with the scientific basis of COVID in dogs,” Robert Cohen, the vet who tested Buddy, told the magazine.
And it seemed to them that neither the cities nor the federal health authorities were very interested in learning from the Buddy affair. By the time they decided to do a necropsy, Buddy was already celebrating.
The official word from the World Health Organization is that pets cannot often transmit the virus to their owners.
But Shelley Rankin, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, said more studies are needed.
“If we are telling the world that the prevalence (of animal cases) is low, then we should look at high numbers” of animals, “she said.
Twelve dogs and 10 cats have tested positive for coronavirus in the US, according to National Geographic.
Mahoneys say they want to hear the story of Buddy.
“(He was) a good little pumpkin. I just kind of wish we’d have him for longer,” said Allison Mahoney.