RIP Buddy: the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus in the US died

If we’re still learning how the coronavirus spreads among humans and why some people get much sicker than others, then we’ve barely scratched the surface with what it does to pets.

While the number of infected animals worldwide remains relatively low, the first dog in the US to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, has unfortunately died.

National Geographic has identified the puppy as Buddy, a 7-year-old German Shepherd from Staten Island, New York, in an exclusive interview with his family that was released this week. Buddy passed away on July 11, just two and a half months after he began to gasp and develop thick mucus in his nose. But the Mahoney family’s struggle to test it and fully understand why their pet’s health declined so quickly, and whether the lymphoma, which was not diagnosed until the day of its death, played a role in it, illustrates how many questions. remain on the effect of the virus on animals.

“You tell people that your dog was positive and they look at you [as if you have] 10 heads, ”Allison Mahoney, one of the Buddy owners, told National Geographic. “[Buddy] it was the love of our lives … He brought joy to everyone. I can not understand it.

The family explained that Buddy began to show breathing difficulties in mid-April, when Allison’s husband Robert Mahoney had been ill with the virus for three weeks. “Without a doubt, I thought [Buddy] It was positive, “said Robert.

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But the first few vets they visited were skeptical that Buddy had the coronavirus. In some cases, clinics simply didn’t have the COVID-19 test on hand to find out. The third clinic the Mahoneys visited finally tested Buddy, and he was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19 on May 15, a month after his symptoms began. By May 20, he tested negative for the virus, indicating that it was no longer present in his body, although he did have the antibodies, which was further proof that he had been infected. The United States Department of Agriculture verified in a June 2 press release that Buddy was the first confirmed case of canine COVID-19 in the country.

However, Buddy’s diagnosis raised more questions: Could he have passed it on to the family’s 10-month-old German Shepherd puppy, Duke, or someone else in the house? (He didn’t.) Had Robert hired him? (That seems likely). And why did this otherwise healthy dog’s health suddenly collapse, despite taking antibiotics and prescription steroids? (He had not yet been diagnosed with a possible lymphoma.) He lost weight and started having trouble walking. And on the morning of July 11, the poor dog began to vomit clotted blood. There was nothing more that the family or the vets could do for Buddy, so they made the difficult decision to sacrifice him.

But the new blood test the day Buddy was euthanized revealed that he likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, that could explain some of his symptoms toward the end. But it’s still unclear if this underlying condition made him more vulnerable to the coronavirus, or if the coronavirus was what first made him sick, or if it was just a coincidental bad time.

The Mahoneys have no guilt or ill will towards the clinic. “I think they are also learning. Everything is trial and error. And they tried to help us in the best way possible, ”Allison said.

They want health officials to have performed a necropsy (essentially a pet autopsy or post-mortem medical examination) to learn more about the virus in Buddy’s body. However, the family does not recall being asked by anyone about a necropsy the day Buddy was euthanized, although they admit that the sad day was blurred. Robert Cohen, the Bay Street Animal Clinic vet who treated Buddy, and who lost his own father to COVID-19 just a couple of weeks ago, told National Geographic that he asked the New York Department of Health. if I needed Buddy’s body for follow-up. investigation. But when NYCDOH responded with the decision to do a necropsy, Buddy had already been cremated. So we don’t know for sure if the coronavirus was what killed Buddy.

“While Buddy’s tests indicated an infection with SAR-CoV-2 [the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19]He also had lymphoma, which can cause clinical signs similar to those described, and was most likely the main reason for his illness and ultimately death, “Dr. Doug Kratt, president of the American Association of Veterinary Medicine (AVMA) By email.

“We have much more to learn about this virus and this disease,” he continued. “Research is ongoing to determine the full extent of SARS-CoV-2, how infection with the virus can affect animals, and which animals are susceptible and why (or why not).”

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While this case raises many questions about the coronavirus in animals, this is what we know. On the positive side, there are very few cases of COVID-19 in animals, especially in relation to humans. While the virus has infected more than 17 million people worldwide, there are fewer than 25 confirmed pet cases worldwide, although it should be noted that widespread pet testing has not been conducted.

CDC does not yet recommend routine pet testing, largely because there is no evidence that pets transmit the virus to people, and also because there are many health problems that could cause COVID-19-like symptoms in pets. . Because these other conditions are much more common than SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals, veterinary experts in infectious diseases, animal health officials, or public health veterinarians do not recommend routine pet testing for SARS-CoV-2 “. Kratt said. “Testing may be appropriate in certain situations after a veterinarian has fully evaluated a pet to rule out other causes of its disease.”

Therefore, it is unclear how many pets in the US have been tested or how many could carry the coronavirus.

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets, “or to rush to test them en masse, CDC official Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh told the AP. “There is no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.” Also, pets that get sick generally have mild symptoms and generally recover.

But Buddy’s fatal case raises questions about whether more pets should be tested in the future, or whether animals with underlying conditions might be more vulnerable to the virus in the same way that many people with pre-existing health conditions have been more affected by COVID- 19) “Certainly, the underlying condition is likely to weaken the dog’s natural defenses to many things,” a South Carolina veterinarian told National Geographic.

The FDA and CDC recommend that people practice social distancing with their pets, such as keeping dogs on leashes and six feet away from dogs and people who are not from home. Anyone who becomes ill with the coronavirus should isolate themselves from their pets, if possible, as there is evidence that pets can contract the virus from humans. And the UK chief veterinarian has warned pet owners to stop kissing their pets, sharing food with them, or sharing beds with them.

Click here for more information on what we know about pets and coronaviruses so far, as well as answers to many questions about pet care during the pandemic.

And for more information, see the following resources:

American Association of Veterinary Medicine:

The Centers for Disease Control:

And read more about MarketWatch’s coronavirus coverage here.