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First pet dog in US to get COVID-19 dies

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-31 10:50

A dog from New York City, which became the first pet in the United States to test positive for the novel coronavirus, has died, sparking concern among pet owners.

A 7-year-old German shepherd named Buddy had trouble breathing from late April to May at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his owners, Robert and Alison Mahoney of Staten Island.

The Mahoneys took Buddy to three different veterinarians on May 15.

On June 2, the New York City Department of Health confirmed that the dog had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Buddy, much like humans who have contracted COVID-19, had thick mucus in his nose, making it difficult to breathe. He also lost weight, became woozy and threw up blood, according to Alison Mahoney.

She told National Geographic: "It looked like it was his insides coming out. He had it all over. It was coming from his nose and mouth. We knew there was nothing that could be done for him from there. What are you going to do for a dog with this? But he had the will to live. He didn't want to go."

The family euthanized Buddy on July 11. The dog's medical records showed that he had lymphoma, so it's not known if that increased his vulnerability for COVID-19, as underlying health conditions increase risk.

Around 25 pets are known to have contracted the coronavirus in the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Veterinarians and public health experts are still investigating how the coronavirus is transmitted to animals, as more than 151,000 Americans have died from the illness and 4.4 million people in the country have been infected, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised on its website: "If your pet tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, isolate the pet from everyone else, including other pets. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use.

"Some pets did not show any signs of illness, but those pets that did get sick all had mild disease that could be taken care of at home. … If you think your pet has COVID-19, call a veterinarian first to discuss what you should do."

The Mahoney family said that it was initially difficult to find a vet that tested animals for the virus. But they eventually used Bay Street Animal Hospital in Staten Island. The family also got a coronavirus test for their other dog, Duke, a 10-month old German shepherd, but it was negative.

Michael San Filippo, a media relations manager with the American Veterinary Medical Association, urged pet owners not to worry. He said it was not clear if Buddy had died from lymphoma or COVID-19, even though he definitely tested positive for SARs-CoV-2.

San Filippo told China Daily: "Everything we know to this point suggests that infections in dogs and cats are uncommon. When they do occur, the dog or cat may or may not show clinical signs of disease, and any signs of disease are usually mild and resolve with either no or symptomatic treatment.

"Infectious disease experts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Organization for Animal Health," he continued, "indicate there is currently no evidence to suggest that pets incidentally infected by humans play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19. Human outbreaks are driven by person-to-person contact."

The death of the dog in New York echoes several other similar cases worldwide.

A cat in England became the first pet in that country to have COVID-19 this month, but it recovered. It's thought that the cat became infected from its owner who also had COVID-19 but recovered.

The UK's chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, stressed that pets getting COVID-19 was a "rare event", telling the BBC: "There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans."

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