Dog tests positive for coronavirus, Louisiana official says

Keith Magill
The (Houma) Courier

A dog has tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in humans, a state official said Tuesday.

It’s the first case in a dog confirmed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain

“Initially, it was believed pets could not get the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now learning that animals can be infected,” Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, a veterinarian, said in a news release.

The U.S Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says there is no evidence pets play a significant role in spreading the virus, Strain said. 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.

“It appears that people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact,” Strain said. “It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended.”

According to the CDC, in many cases, the pets do not get sick, but some have suffered mild signs of respiratory tract or gastrointestinal disease, according to the state Agriculture Department. A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several countries, including the United States.

The CDC recommends that patients with COVID-19 who have pets follow these recommendations, listed on the agency’s website.

Strain also urged Louisiana domestic pet owners to not abandon or surrender their pets to animal control agencies if they are able to take care of them.

“If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, allow a family member or close friend to care for your pets. If no one is available, maintain a safe distance from your pet and frequently wash your hands before and after contact with your pet, their food and supplies,” Strain said. “Remember, in the event of any emergency, it is wise to have a pet plan as you would have a game plan for your family."

Strain said federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules prohibit his agency from releasing any information that could identify the pet owner, including where the dog is located.