New study suggests stray dogs eating bats caused coronavirus - can dogs carry the virus?

Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 2:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 3:45 pm
Can dogs pass on the coronavirus? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Can dogs pass on the coronavirus? (Photo: Shutterstock)

As coronavirus continues to spread, we are beginning to learn more about the virus and where it came from.

A new study has been published claiming the virus was transmitted to humans after stray dogs ate infected bats.

According to the study, the dogs would have acted as intermediate hosts between bats and humans.

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This is what you need to know about the relationship between coronavirus and dogs.

Did the coronavirus come from dogs?

Professor Xuhua Xia, from the University of Ottawa’s biology department, has published a study indicating that coronavirus was likely transmitted to humans via stray dogs.

According to the research, stray dogs could have been the intermediate host that bridged the gap between coronavirus-infected bats and humans.

If a stray dog ate the meat of a coronavirus-infected bat, it could evolve in the dog’s intestines before moving onto humans, according to the study.

However, Professor James Wood, head of the department of Veterinary Medicine and researcher in infection dynamics at the University of Cambridge, is not convinced.

Professor Wood said: “I find it difficult to understand how the author has been able to conclude anything from this study, or to hypothesise much, let alone that the virus causing COVID-19 may have evolved through dogs.

“There is far too much inference and far too little direct data. I do not see anything in this paper to support this supposition and am concerned that this paper has been published in this journal.”

Professor Wood added: “I do not believe that any dog owners should be concerned as a result of this work.”

Can dogs pass coronavirus to humans?

According to the latest information from Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK Government, there is no evidence the virus can be spread to humans from companion animals.

The CDC states: “Pets have other types of coronaviruses that can make them sick, like canine and feline coronaviruses.

“These other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.”

There have been some cases of pets testing positive for the coronavirus, but this indicates human to animal transmission, rather than the other way around.

WHO says: “We are aware of instances of animals and pets of COVID-19 patients being infected with the disease.

“Based on current evidence, human to human transmission remains the main driver.”

Should I get my pets tested for Covid-19?

The CDC says: “No. At this time, routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is not recommended.”

If your pet has been in contact with someone with Covid-19 and subsequently gets sick, do not take them to the vet.

Instead, call your veterinarian and let them know the situation. They’ll be able to advise you on what to do from there.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, then you should restrict your contact with animals the same way you would with humans, according to the CDC.

Animals can spread all kinds of different diseases to humans, so it’s a good idea to practice good hygiene around pets, and other animals, regardless.

You should continue to wash your hands thoroughly after being in contact with dogs, cats and other pets.

Coronavirus: The Facts

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus and is spread primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that you should not leave the home if you have either:

• a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

When can I go outside?

The Government has put the UK into lockdown and instructed everyone to stay at home. You should only leave your home for very limited purposes:

• shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible• one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household• any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person• travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

However, these reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

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