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expert reaction to reports that the (previously reported) pet dog in Hong Kong has repeatedly tested ‘weak positive’ for COVID-19 virus

The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) have said that the previously reported pet dog in Hong Kong has repeatedly tested ‘weak positive’ for the COVID-19 virus.


Prof James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, said:

“COVID-19 has already demonstrated an ability to spread to more than one species, in transmitting to and then between humans.  Given that large numbers of dogs live with humans in affected areas, it is highly likely that many have been exposed to the virus and it is notable that none has been reported to be ill.  COVID-19 is transmitted between humans and there is no evidence that dogs or other animals have played any role whatsoever in transmitting the infection either to humans or to other animals.  Finding a low level of virus in one pet dog exposed to confirmed human cases is not particularly surprising.  Owners should continue to care for their pets and also simply continue to maintain good hygienic measures around their pets in order to avoid any parasite or infection that can be transmitted to them.”


Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:

“We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of the virus.

“I still think it’s questionable how relevant it is to the human outbreak as most of the global outbreak has been driven by human-to-human transmission.

“We need to find out more, but we don’t need to panic – I doubt it could spread to another dog or a human because of the low levels of the virus.  The real driver of the outbreak is humans.”


Daniella Dos Santos, British Veterinary Association President, said:

“The OIE and Hong Kong Government have unanimously agreed that the ongoing test results of the Pomeranian dog suggest that the dog has a low-level of infection and that this is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.  The dog has not shown any clinical signs of disease and is still under quarantine.

“We are very wary of speculating beyond the information that is available at the time of commenting (6.30pm, 4 March).  However, we’re aware that during the SARS outbreak in 2003, a small number of cats and dogs tested positive for the virus.  These animals did not transmit the virus to other animals of the same species or to humans.

“We are particularly keen not to cause any unnecessary concern that could lead to pet abandonment.  We would emphasise that at the moment, there remains no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of Covid-19 for humans or other animals, or that they become sick. T he main source of infection remains human-to-human transmission.

“Our advice for pet owners who have been instructed to self-isolate because of infection or risk of infection with Covid-19 is to keep your pets isolated with you but restrict your contact with them as a precautionary measure until more information is known about the virus and routes of transmission.  Practising good hygiene is absolutely essential.  These owners should always wash their hands before and after any interaction with an animal and avoid being licked by their pet.  This is a precautionary animal health measure, until more information is known about the virus and its routes of transmission.  If a pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet; call your vet practice for further advice.”


Previous comments on the dog (from 28 February):

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:

The SMC also produced a Factsheet on COVID-19 which is available here:


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