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Dogs in Washington show evidence of exposure to COVID-19

A dog stands near social distancing floor signage as holiday travelers pass through Los Angeles international Airport on November 25, 2020. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

University of Washington researchers say some dogs have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in the state, a sign they may have had the virus at some point.

The samples were obtained as part of a study led by the UW on pets and companion animals from households where humans have tested positive for COVID-19. The study began in early 2020, and is in partnership with the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University.

UW, WSU study testing whether pets are vulnerable to COVID-19

In total, 23 samples have tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. These are the first cases of a pet testing positive in Washington, but not the first in the country. There have been a handful of cases in other states of companion animals testing positive for COVID-19.

Veterinarians say people with coronavirus should take precautions so they don’t infect their pets, but there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans.

“These detections are not a surprise given the other cases reported across the country,” said Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph in a written release. “While there is no significant public health risk, we would advise pet owners who are COVID-positive to take measures to protect their pets from the virus.”

The Washington State Department of Health says anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation should avoid direct contact with their pets. If there’s no one who is healthy and can care for the animals in the house, the person who is positive for COVID should wear a mask and wash their hands before and after interacting with their animal. If an animal becomes sick, contact a veterinarian.

Dog Aging Project co-directed by UW researchers needs participants

“These results indicate that COVID-infected humans are able to transmit the virus to animals living in the same household. While we don’t have evidence that this poses a risk to other humans, we are recommending that COVID-infected persons take steps to reduce the risk of infecting their pets,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, director of the UW Center for One Health Research and principal investigator for the COVID and Pets Study. “We are continuing this study as the human vaccine rollout takes place, and will be seeing whether any change in household transmission occurs.”

Find more information about COVID-19 and animals from the CDC online here.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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