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COVID 19, Your Dog, and Buddy the German Shepherd

Allison Mahoney with a photo of her German Shepherd, Buddy. Kholood Eid/National Geographic

For some, the vulnerability of a pet raises more concern about how to protect our families— including our pets —from COVID. So when I came across the recent National Geographic article titled “Exclusive: Buddy, first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died," my heart sank. But as I read further I realized the title was misleading. We learned that Buddy most likely had lymphoma, which appeared to be the cause of his death (not COVID). But I wanted to know more, so I asked Dr. Heather Oxford—an integrative veterinarian in Los Angeles, with a degree in epidemiology— to weigh in with her thoughts on Buddy's case, and for some suggestions on steps we might take to protect our pets and families:

"Buddy the German shepherd’s story is an unfortunate one.  Two independent veterinarians that reviewed his medical records concluded he most likely had lymphoma, and that was the likely cause of his symptoms and ultimate death.  His SARS-CoV-2 test was confirmed positive by the NY Department of Health on May 15 and then a second test was confirmed negative on May 20.  The virus had cleared his body almost 2 months before bloodwork was taken on July 11, which suggested lymphoma.

We still don’t have any evidence that pets can be a source of infection for people, either through their respiratory excretions or as a fomite, by passing viral particles from their coat or fur to their owners.  We have so few confirmed canine cases, especially compared to the larger number of human cases, despite them living in close quarters with human cases.  It is unlikely dogs get infected, and it is probable that if they do become infected, they are “dead end hosts,” very unlikely to transmit to their human companions.  Due to the small risk of human cases transmitting the virus to their pets (cats being slightly more susceptible than dogs), it is good to keep their pets distanced from themselves or to wear a mask when near their pets if they are sick.  A sick person should wash their hands before touching a pet to reduce the risk to their pet and anyone else touching that pet.  Please do not kiss your pet on the nose if you are sick ;). Treat pets as you would a healthy family member and take the same precautions around them if you are sick.  

Even though there has not been evidence of pet-to-person transmission, if a pet has been in close contact with a person known to have COVID, wash your hands and do not touch your face after touching that pet. " 

-Dr. Heather Oxford DVM, MPH, CVA, CCRT is an integrative veterinarian based in Los Angeles, CA. You can learn more about her work here


The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of The Baroo, unless otherwise noted. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified veterinary professional or qualified trainer, nor is any part intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from The Baroo  community.


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