A dog who tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong after its owner became infected has died, just days after being declared virus free.
The 17-year-old Pomeranian belonged to a 60-year-old woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on February 25 and has since recovered.
The woman’s pet was taken into quarantine a few days after her where it was kept until last week due to repeatedly returning “weak positive” test results for the virus.
“The department learned from the dog’s owner that it had passed away on March 16. The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death,” a spokesman for Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) told the South China Morning Post.
The dog finally returned home on March 14 after returning two negative tests for coronavirus.
Local media has suggested the dog’s death may have been a result of the stress and anxiety from being in quarantine and away from its owner.
The AFCD said in a statement last month that the repeated positive results did not mean there was evidence household pets could pass the virus onto humans or other animals.
“Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets,” the statement said.
“Experts from the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences of the City University of Hong Kong and the World Organisation for Animal Health have been consulted, and unanimously agreed that these results suggest that the dog has a low-level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.
“The dog has not shown any signs of disease related to COVID-19. It is currently under quarantine at the animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.”
In Australia there have been reports of pet owners questioning whether the virus can be transmitted from their animals, with some even asking if they should euthanise their pets.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has said there is “limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with SARS-Cov-2 and no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or to humans”.
World Animal Protection spokesman Pankaj KC urged people not to overreact after hearing about the dog testing “weak positive” for the coronavirus.
“To put it into perspective, consider that there are around 750 million dogs living in the world, mostly alongside people. Out of all these, just one single dog has tested weak positive for coronavirus,” he said in a blog post.
“This is an extremely rare and isolated case. We need to prevent a knee-jerk reaction to our canine companions, preventing any drastic measures.
“Pets are great companions and they shouldn’t pay the price of our fear by being abandoned or cruelly mistreated.”
Originally published as Dog dies after positive virus test