CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A pug in North Carolina has tested positive for the coronavirus and it may be the first instance the virus has been detected in a dog in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, but the agency says it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. The McClean family is among the unlucky few.
Dr. Heather McLean told WRAL that everyone in her family, except her daughter, tested positive for the coronavirus in March and they recently ended their quarantine.
"This has been very stressful and we're grateful we made it through," she said.
Dr. McLean says the family has all recovered.
“We've felt great for the last two weeks," she said. "Everything seems very back to normal."
On April 1, the family joined a new study conducted by Duke University, in which everyone got tested for virus, including their pets.
"They all came out to our house and did blood samples,” said Dr. McLean. “For the humans, they swabbed our noses as well as our mouths, and then for the animals, they did oral swabs for both dogs and the cat."
To her surprise, Dr. McLean says their fun-loving pug named Winston contracted the virus. She says she noticed something was off with Winston while quarantined, but his symptoms were mild.
"Pugs are a little unusual in that they cough and sneeze in a very strange way,” she said. “So, it almost seems like he was very gaggy, and there was one day when he didn't want to eat his breakfast, and if you know pugs, you know they love to eat, so that seemed very unusual.”
The family says Winston is now doing a lot better. He was only sick for a few days.
“Hopefully we’ll learn more through the research study, and I think because there's not a lot of studies and sampling pets, we just don't know yet,” said Dr. McLean. “My advice is just not to get too worried about it.”
Dr. McLean is a pediatrician at Duke and her husband works in the emergency room at a University of North Carolina hospital. They believe it’s possible they contracted the coronavirus at work and their dog probably caught it from them. Winston sleeps with Heather every night and likes to lick their plates.
The CDC recommends treating pets as you would other human family members. Don’t let them interact with people or other animals outside the household. If a person inside the home becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the role animals may play in the spread,