The Hong Kong government has urged people not to abandon their pets and to stop kissing them after a second dog tested positive for coronavirus, but stressed that the animal had not shown any symptoms of the disease.
A German shepherd living in the Pok Fu Lam area on Hong Kong Island was sent for quarantine along with another mixed-breed dog from the same residence on Thursday after their owner was confirmed as being infected, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said in a statement.
Though the shepherd tested positive for the virus, no such result was obtained from the mixed-breed dog, and “neither dog has shown any signs of disease,” the AFCD said, adding it will continue to monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals.
The new case comes after an elderly 17-year-old Pomeranian, which had tested “weak positive” during repeated tests for the virus, died two days after it was released from quarantine disease-free.
The AFCD said the dog’s owner wasn’t willing to allow an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
The Hong Kong animal-welfare authority stressed that there is currently no evidence that pets can be a source of the virus or that they can get sick from it. “Under no circumstances should [owners] abandon their pets,” it said.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said that infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations, all agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with Covid-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
These include the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which have also both stated that there is no evidence that companion animals such as cats and dogs can spread the virus.
“Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” the OIE said.
However, the AVMA said that “out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with Covid-19 “limit contact” with animals until more information is known about the virus.
The AFCD also reminded pet owners to use good hygiene practices and urged them to avoid kissing their pets.
Some animal-welfare experts have suggested the Pomeranian’s death could have been caused by the stress of being quarantined and separated from its owner, while others have noted its age.
“The dog likely died from causes other than Covid-19 as it had never displayed any clinical signs of illness,” The College for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in a post on its website.
“Our pets can be a source of comfort for us, and not another source of concern, during this evolving Covid-19 environment,” said Dr. Jim Blacka, a veterinarian with IDEXX’s Companion Animal Commercial Business.
“Data from IDEXX shows no cases to date of the novel coronavirus in thousands of dog and cat samples tested, which is good news for pets and the people who care for them,” he added.
The AFCD said it “strongly advises” that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with persons infected with Covid-19 or those who have had close contacted with others infected with the virus, should be quarantined in government facilities.