COVID-19: USDA Confirms First U.S. Case of SARS-CoV-2 in Pet Dog

by John M. Simpson.

On June 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in a pet dog in New York state.  The dog, a German shepherd, had shown signs of respiratory illness and samples were taken and confirmed to be positive for the virus by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

One of the dog’s owners had tested positive for COVID-19 and another dog in the same household, while showing no signs of illness, did test positive for antibodies which suggested exposure.

Even though there had been prior reports in the media of a pug in North Carolina named “Winston” testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, APHIS characterized the German shepherd as “the first dog in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.”  It was reported that APHIS had determined that Winston had not met the criteria for a positive test.

Although a small number of animals worldwide have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, APHIS adhered to its earlier stated position that routine testing of animals is not recommended.  APHIS also reiterated its view that the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans is low:

We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus.  Based on the limited information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low.  There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare.