COVID-19 and Canine Corona Virus. Are we and our pets prepared?
At time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed a staggering 67 thousand lives with a further 1.24 million confirmed cases, spanning 181 countries. Over the past three months, the Corona Virus strain, COVID-19 has spread from several individuals of China’s Wuhan province to 6 of our 7 continents.
*Worldwide Coronavirus COVID-19 Map Courtesy of Google
We still find ourselves in the early throws of this pandemic with death rates likely to continue rising. The New York Times recently reported on how anticipated death rates in the America are likely to rise closer to 100 thousand, with over a million subject to infection of the Corona virus.
The resulting global pandemic has far reaching implications, not only to people’s health and wellbeing, but to our economies and way of life. Amongst the concerns include the potential for the spread of COVID-19 from humans to their pets and vice versa.
*Linear scale depicting total worldwide cases from Jan to present date. Image courtesy of Worldometers
COVID-19 in Animals
These fears were compounded on 28. Feb when the Independent reported that a pet Pomeranian was quarantined in Hong Kong after being tested with ‘low level’ COVID-19, likely transmitted from its owner who was also diagnosed with COVID-19. At present these are isolated events, but it has raised the question of cross species contamination/infection. The American Kennel Club (AKC) also published a blog regarding the spread of COVID-19, citing the work of Chinese epidemiologist Li Lanjuan of China’s National Health Commission. In it Lanjuan cautions vigilance amongst dog owners. ‘If pets go out and have contact with an infected person, they have the chance to get infected. By then, pets need to be isolated. In addition to people, we should be careful with other mammals especially pets.’
Further news came via OIE, the World Organization for Animal Health. In a recent Q&A on 1. April, the OIE noted: ‘Now that COVID-19 virus infections are widely distributed in the human population there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans… Several dogs and cats have tested positive to COVID-19 virus following close contact with infected humans.’ The OIE have highlighted that studies are currently underway to better understand susceptibility of different animal species but have also reaffirmed that they do not believe animals are playing a role in the current COVID-19 pandemic spread.
Research is now being carried out by the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China to ascertain the viability of cross-species infection. So far, their team have found that felines are highly susceptible to COVID-19, but research continues.
Corona Virus Variants
This isn’t a new concern, historically both Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), derived from civet cats and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), transmitted from dromedary camels’ variants of Corona virus originated in animals and spread to people. Authorities have yet to confirm if this is the case with COVID-19 but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) has stated:
‘This is what is suspected to have happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is the one that causes SARS.’
Global health authorities are doing their best to understand the pandemic but still have much to learn. Until that time the CDC has recommended that individuals ‘practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.’
The World Health Organization (WHO) has posted similar advice to the general public to reduce the potential spread of disease from animals. The WHO note that ‘To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.’
Corona Virus 50 years on
Of course, corona Virus is not new to our canine friends. In 1971 the first case of canine corona virus or CCV was identified in dogs. 49 years later varying strains of this enteric virus have been identified with different properties. This has largely been in part due to the constant evolution of the virus, through accumulation of point mutations within the genome and genetic insertions or deletions.
According to PET MD CCV is a ‘highly contagious intestinal disease that can be found in dogs all around the world. This particular virus is specific to dogs, both wild and domestic.’ CCV works by replicating itself inside the upper two thirds of small intestine of dogs, causing a range of symptoms from barely any to life threatening conditions for dogs, especially if they have pre-existing parvovirus infections or intestinal pathogens. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia and related depression. Full grown dogs are typically unaffected the way newborn puppies are, but all can display some of the common symptoms.
CCV is typically spread as result of exposure to infected canines’ feces. CCV viral strands can remain in the canine’s body for up to 6 months. Factors such as stress due to over-intensive training, overcrowding and general unsanitary conditions contribute to an increase in a dog’s susceptibility of catching CCV. Mutual places of congregation such as canine events and shows are also amongst the list of locations where the virus is likely to spread quickly.
Although vaccinations are available for CCV most veterinarian associations do no routinely promote it. Lifestyle and health aspects are measured before a vaccination is provided. Where these are likely to be seen are in puppies who are likely to enter dog shows as they develop.
All the issues above raise further questions which will undoubtedly need answers as mankind transitions through this pandemic. Industries across the world are developing alternative means in which they conduct their business, most opting for digital remedies. This transition is a necessity in order to avoid economic collapse, but amidst it all, great opportunities are presenting themselves which will hopefully benefit everyone in the future.
A Watchful Eye
What remains to be seen is the limit of executive powers granted to Governments in order to curtail this virus. According to a recent article by Forbes Magazine, Israel has become the latest country to enable citizen movement tracking through individuals mobile phones. China and Iran have already began using geolocating technology in a bid to curb further spread. The idea of such systems is to track movements of individuals believed to have connections with infected citizens. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that “This is an effective tool to locate the virus and isolate it,” Netanyahu explained, “instead of isolating an entire country.”
It is apparent that unless a COVID-19 vaccine is sourced, countries across the globe will find themselves in periodic quarantine phases. If mass population control is to continue then technology will play a vital role in its implementation. The key question here is, will this extend to our pets? Currently there is minimal concern surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 to and from humans to pets. Nevertheless, researchers are exploring these options and if links are made then it is plausible that our pets will face the same restrictions as we do today.
When you consider the above points, is it realistic to expect governments to accurately manage and track the information needed from our pets. With ownership records either missing or forged, vaccination records centrally stored across a multitude of on and offline sources, would it even be possible manage this.
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