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Our dogs and the coronavirus

I knew that many people vaccinate their dogs to protect them against coronavirus, in fact that vaccination is often a requirement for dogs that will be held in boarding kennel.

While I was familiar with the name corona, I didn’t know how the canine and human corona viruses differed. As someone who shares a couch with a bunch of sporting dogs, I thought I should know.

The coronaviruses comprise a large family of viruses that affect humans and animals. Most importantly, the coronaviruses that cause diarrhea and respiratory symptoms in dogs are not the same as the COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus) currently in the news. At this time, according to the Canine Health Foundation, health officials have not expressed concern about transmission on COVID-19 from companion animals to humans.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) report that at this time (March 2020) there is no evidence that companion animals such as pet dogs or cats can spread coronavirus to humans. The type of coronavirus that our companion animals get is not the same as the one that humans get.

Yet there is one way a companion animal can “transmit” COVID-19.

If the owner is infected, he or she can “spread” the virus on the pet’s collar, coat or leash simply by coughing in the pet’s vicinity and contaminating things the pet is wearing. If you have the virus or believe you have had contact with someone who has the virus, you should not be taking your companion animals to the veterinarian, since the virus can live on such inanimate objects for many hours.

There was some misinformation about COVID-19 when the first outbreak was detected in Wuhan, China. Early on, many patients had some link to a large seafood and live animal market in the area, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients in China reportedly had no connection with anyone associated with the animal market, which indicated that the disease was spreading solely by person-to-person spread.

In dogs, canine coronavirus disease is a highly infectious intestinal infection in dogs, especially puppies. Canine coronavirus is usually short-lived but may cause considerable abdominal discomfort for a few days in infected dogs.

Canine respiratory coronavirus (a group 2 coronavirus) is genetically related to the common cold in humans. It is spread by direct dog to dog contact and causes acute respiratory symptoms and contributes to canine infectious respiratory disease complex (sometimes called kennel cough).

The virus gets its name from the fact that when viewed from above under an electron microscope, the virus has a ring of projections that appear like a coronet, or a small crown made of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. The Latin word for crown is corona.

The good news is that preventive vaccinations already exist in the companion animal world. The creation of the canine vaccines is the result of decades of research and testing.

In other words, we already knew that dogs were Man’s Best Friend. Developing the vaccine for dogs has laid the groundwork for developing a coronavirus vaccine in humans. That’s because all that veterinary research detected the “known pathways of coronavirus pathophysiology.”

Various human vaccine companies are racing to get a coronavirus vaccine. In fact, Greffex CEO John Price, Texas, has said that his company is ‘completely confident’ that it has developed such a vaccine, although approval could take years. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Dogs are vaccinated against coronavirus. The decades of research and testing behind the canine vaccine will help scientists develop a vaccine for humans. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS