While many aspects remain unknown, scientists are discovering more about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 every day. Although still considered rare, they are learning it can be transmitted from humans to their pets. Recently, Duke University verified such a case with an infected pug in North Carolina (WRAL, 2020). In turn, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced additional social distancing guidelines for pet owners.
Beyond the consensus that the virus is primarily spread from human to human, these rules follow social distancing guidelines with adjustments for companion animals, including:
- Do not allow pets to interact with people or other animals outside the family household unit.
- Keep pets indoors when possible to prevent interaction with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash and maintain a minimum of 6 feet from other animals or people.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where large numbers of people and dogs may gather.
- Humans that are known or suspected to be infected with the virus should avoid contact with pets and other animals, much as they would other humans.
To date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 spreading from feces to another organism, but active virus has been detected in such specimens from infected patients (CDC, 2020). Studies of previous strains have shown that high relative humidity can extend coronavirus viability (Casanova, et al, 2010). These findings suggest the need for enhanced awareness to practice proper and consistent use of collection bags when walking one’s dog – and added vigilance for pets to avoid prior droppings from others when not similarly removed.
This virulent strain of coronavirus initiates infection and replication at the cellular level by engaging a specific protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2; Hoffman, et al. 2020). Prevalent throughout the body, ACE2 receptors are particularly abundant in nasal and respiratory tissues (Hamming, et al. 2004). Given the vast nasal epithelial surface area in dogs that enables their acute sense of smell, “catching” COVID-19 from infected owners may likewise pose a compounded risk if exposed to other dogs’ excrement – as well as the evolving list of possibilities from virus remaining active on various surfaces over time.
It is also important to consider that dogs experience the world through their sense of smell and characteristically “sniff search” prior to defecation. Every owner needs to be aware of their surroundings and exercise caution to avoid proximity to other pedestrians, as well as canine waste in that process. If a dog fails to immediately locate the botanical amines needed to stimulate their gastroenterological response (Brady, et al. 2019), the potential for coronavirus exposure can increase. That is, spending precious time slowly searching, and sometimes complicating social distancing, can hinder efforts to get the exercise both dogs and homebound owners need most.
In addition to compliance with municipal and public health guidelines while outdoors, owners can easily provide the natural scents most dogs seek when starting their walks. In fact, a single drop of a safe, organic solution on the dog’s paw can provide the naturally occurring scent cues that were shown to stimulate more timely and predictable canine defecation in 3 out of 4 indoor dogs and in all of the rescues in a shelter setting (Brady, et al, Williams, et al. 2019). Less time “sniff searching” can thus provide more control in public spaces, help minimize contact with potentially infectious individuals and surfaces, and allow more time actually walking on walks.
Such botanicals may also help provide peace of mind for essential workers managing extended shifts, leaving less time at home with their pets. This solution can help “inspire” dogs to relieve themselves before staying indoors for long hours, as well as reduce exposure to other people and their pets.
Kepley BioSystems, the company that developed this product, is addressing coronavirus challenges by significantly reducing the price to help every dog owner make the most of that time outdoors while following new guidelines. Building on prior work sponsored by the National Science Foundation, their research identified naturally occurring molecules that stimulate canine defecation during characteristic “sniff searching” behavior (Brady, et al. 2019.). A 3-month supply of Kepley K9® Strategic Scent Stimulant is now $11.99, and the company has committed to continue this special offer until a solution to the global pandemic is available.
UPDATE: Since publishing this story, WRAL has reported that Winston the pug, the dog originally thought to be the first to prove positive in March, was not infected with COVID-19. Federal officials state that his test resulted in a "weak positive", but later saw no antibody response in his blood, indicating that he may not have had the disease (Source: WRAL). Later, another dog, a German Shepard Dog named Buddy, was confirmed to be the first canine in April. Buddy was later diagnosed with lymphoma, complicated by COVID-19 symptoms, and has unfortunately since passed away at the age of seven. For more, please see the National Geographic article online by clicking here (for NatGeo subscribers), or further reporting at MSN by clicking here.
WRAL News, Raleigh, North Carolina. (2020, April 27). Chapel Hill pug tests positive for coronavirus; first known dog case in the US. Retrieved from https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/pug-with-coronavirus-first-dog/19074499/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 30). Daily Life and Coping: If You Have Animals. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html
World Organisation for Animal Health. (2020, April 27). Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 23). Health Departments: Water and COVID-19 FAQS: Information about Drinking Water, Treated Recreational Water, and Wastewater. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html
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Hoffmann, M, Kleine-Weber, H, Schroeder, S, Krüger, N, Herrler, T, Erichsen, S,Müller, MA et al. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 cell entry depends on ACE2 and TMPRSS2 and is blocked by a clinically proven protease inhibitor. Cell.
Hamming, I, Timens, W, Bulthuis, MLC, Lely, A., Navis, G., & van Goor, H. (2004). Tissue distribution of ACE2 protein, the functional receptor for SARS coronavirus. A first step in understanding SARS pathogenesis. The Journal of Pathology: A Journal of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 203(2), 631-637.
Williams, AA, Cunningham, I, Brady, TE, Abood, SK, Tinker-Kulberg, R, Dellinger, K, (2019). Use of a Canine Gastrointestinal Olfactory Stimulant in a Shelter Setting. Journal of Animal Health Behavoural Sciences, 3: 117. of, 6, 2.
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