The first dog to ‘catch’ coronavirus has died after being cleared of the disease and released from quarantine, authorities have confirmed.
The 17-year-old Pomeranian from Hong Kong, which had been cleared of Covid-19 after initial suspicions of the infection were proven unfounded despite a ‘weak positive’ diagnosis, passed away on Wednesday, just two days after returning home.
Vets in the Asian financial hub say the dog’s death could have been because of the stress and anxiety of being in quarantine and away from its family.
The dog, which belonged to a patient who had COVID-19, tested negative for the virus last week, the city’s Hong Kong’s Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said, easing fears over the possibility of human-to-animal transmission.
A spokesman for AFCD told the South China Morning Post : “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.”
The pet returned home to its owner – understood to be businesswoman Yvonne Chow Hau Yee, aged 60 – on Saturday, but the AFCD gave no further details.
It had tested “weak positive” since late February with low levels of the virus found in its nasal and oral cavity samples, prompting further tests to confirm whether it had been infected or just contaminated.
The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence that pets can be infected with the coronavirus.
In a previous statement WHO said: “While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.”
Animal health experts examining the Hong Kong case have said pet owners should not be overly concerned and should not abandon their pets.
However, according to some reports, including in the Daily Mail, other dogs have been quarantined in Hong Kong, while some owners have been putting masks on their pets’ faces.
Hong Kong has 167 confirmed cases of the virus with four fatalities so far.