Animals and the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19)

Due to a report that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for SARS-CoV-2*, animal owners now have many questions.

The dog from Hong Kong did not show any clinical symptoms linked to SARS-CoV-2. The dog was tested because the animal was admitted to a quarantine facility after the dog's infected owner was hospitalised. It is currently unclear whether or not the dog is actually infected, or that the virus was only present in the dog's nose because of intensive contact with his sick owner.

Surveys are currently being carried out

There are no indications that pets and agricultural animals, such as cows, pigs and sheep, can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 or that they are involved in spreading the virus and are a source of infection to humans. The transfer of SARS-CoV-2 is from human to human. Surveys are currently being carried out in order to clarify the sensitivity of pets and agricultural animals to the new coronavirus.

Coronaviruses occur in many animal species, but these are types other than SARS-CoV-2. Most coronaviruses are specific to animal species and cannot be transferred to other species or from an animal to a human.

Vaccines and tests

Vaccines against coronaviruses for various animal species are available, but these are vaccines against species-specific coronaviruses that cause gastrointestinal infections. These vaccines provide no protection from SARS-CoV-2.

There are also tests available to test dogs and cats for coronaviruses, but these tests are meant to see whether or not dogs or cats are infected with a coronavirus that causes gastrointestinal infections, and can therefore not be used to test humans and were not designed for SARS-CoV-2 on top of that.

More information

For more information on coronaviruses and pets, please visit the information page of the KNMvD (Dutch) of information page of the Global Veterinary Community. The Dutch RIVM provides up-to-date information on the coronavirus regarding the situation in The Netherlands.

The above text is based on the knowledge on infection risks and the risks of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to animals available at the time of writing (4 March 2020).

*The new coronavirus has been called SARS-CoV-2 by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee for the Taxonomy of Viruses. The disease caused by this virus is called ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’, COVID-19 for short.