Nearly two dozen dogs in Washington have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.
The presence of the antibodies generated to fight off a coronavirus infection has been found in other dogs and household pets across the country. The threat to the public isn’t significant, according to researchers and public health officials.
“While there is no significant public health risk, we would advise pet owners who are COVID-positive to take measures to protect their pets from the virus,” said Dr. Brian Joseph, state veterinarian, in a press release from the state Department of Agriculture.
The dogs were part of the COVID-19 and Pets Study, which is being led by researchers at the University of Washington.
The study began last year during the beginning of the pandemic. Twenty-three samples from dogs tested at Washington State University’s Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory showed antibodies for SARS-CoV-2. The samples were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Researchers will continue the study as more humans are vaccinated to see if viral transmission is affected, said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, director of the UW Center for One Health Research and principal investigator for the study.
“These results indicate that COVID-infected humans are able to transmit the virus to animals living in the same household. While we don’t have evidence that this poses a risk to other humans, we are recommending that COVID-infected persons take steps to reduce the risk of infecting their pets,” Rabinowitz said.
The state Department of Health suggests that people isolating at home with COVID-19 infections avoid direct contact with household animals. If they don’t live with someone else who can care for the animal, they should wear a mask and wash their hands before and after interacting with the animal. If an animal is ill, the owner should call a veterinarian.